Seventeen years after he left Stony Brook, Joe Nathan hasn’t forgotten his roots.
The Texas Rangers closer has kept a close eye on his alma mater during its record-setting, 50-win season and was thrilled when the Seawolves broke through over the weekend, becoming just the third No. 4 seed to win an NCAA Tournament regional championship. Stony Brook will take on LSU in the best-of-three Super Regionals this weekend in Baton Rouge, La.
“I’m excited for the program, for Coach Senk, [athletic director] Jim Fiore, all the guys on the team,” Nathan said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Senk credited part of the program’s success to the three-year-old Joe Nathan Field, which the major league pitcher helped get developed with an extremely generous donation. Fiore joked Senk tried to recruit players without showing them the old field, which didn’t have bleachers and was sloped so much you could hardly see the right fielder from home plate. The new 1,000-seat facility included a brand new 25-foot scoreboard, new bullpens and dugouts, in addition to a field turf surface.
“Every baseball player wants the opportunity to play at a great field and now we have that,” Senk said. “That’s been a huge part of our recent success.”
Nathan said Senk has a profound impact on his career, with establishing a work ethic in him that enabled him to succeed in the majors. One thing he never forgot was the coach keeping Nathan at shortstop — his position in college — his senior year when scouts and observers clamored to see him on the mound.
“He always stuck with his guns,” Nathan said.
Nathan will be busy this weekend, as Texas visits the San Francisco Giants in an interleague series. He will make sure to follow his old coach’s team, hoping its Cinderella story has another chapter left in it.
“This is a huge step for them,” Nathan said. “This is all going to help make a name for Stony Brook. Hopefully more guys keep making it to the big leagues and it can keep getting stronger and stronger.”
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