Robin Ventura’s 58-game hitting streak is one of college baseball’s most unbreakable records, but it’s probably “ancient history” to the Oklahoma State baseball players he’s helping to coach and study alongside in Stillwater.
That’s one thing I learned from talking to Ventura, who’s taking classes to get his degree while also a volunteer assistant coach for the Cowboys.
“I never have to bring it up, I can tell you that,” Ventura said.
Here are a few other things I learned from the interview, which you can watch in full above (along with vintage highlights from his college career).
He had no clue about the streak, and he didn’t want to know about the streak
He had no idea about the streak even thirty or so games into it. In fact, he didn’t even really want to know, and he certainly didn’t want any attention for it. Ventura just wanted another win.
“It was just weird, back then there wasn’t social media,” Ventura said. “People would show up and want to talk about it and I just didn’t want to talk about it. I just wanted to go play, we were winning games. For me that was the most important thing.”
Ventura didn’t know he was on the streak until his last at-bat against Kansas in the regular season. The count was 3-2 and his teammate on deck was urging him to swing. Ventura didn’t fully understand why, but he got a hit. He learned about the streak after the game and it got a lot more difficult after that. He of course wanted to get a hit every time he stepped up to the plate, but now he knew, and it was always in the back of his mind that he had to get a hit to keep the streak going.
“It just became different,” Ventura said.
Launching himself into the stands for a foul ball was just “part of how everyone played back then”
You can see Ventura make this play at about 2:05 of the video above. Making plays like that to win games were far more important to him than any hit he could get.
“You get to Omaha, and it was special,” Ventura said. “You’re playing at Rosenblatt, and you know you spend your whole year trying to get there.”
Ventura knew he had a team that was good enough team to make it to the finals. His streak continued all the way up to the national championship where the Cowboys lost to Stanford for the title. It was Jack McDowell, who you might know as “Black Jack McDowell,” on the mound for the Cardinal who ended the streak. He would become the Chicago White Sox first-rounder that same season, and a year later, Ventura would be reunited with McDowell as the White Sox’s 1988 first-round MLB draft pick.
He is thankful that McDowell never brought up that 1987 title game again
You would think that if the pitcher who ended the longest ever NCAA hit streak was in a room with Ventura, there would be some sort of conversation about it right?
Well, they were in fact in the same room again, as roommates in spring training the year that Ventura joined the White Sox organization, and they never spoke a word of it.
Ventura agreed he a was a “nice friend” for never bringing it up.
“I obviously didn’t want to talk about it,” Ventura joked. “Everybody thought we would sit around and talk about it. Other people would bring it up, but we never talked about it. It was over and we were on to doing whatever we needed to do with the White Sox.”
Oklahoma State is a special place to Ventura
Ventura had a decorated 16-year MLB career and managed the White Sox. But, he still always came back to Oklahoma State. Football games, basketball games, you name it.
I asked Ventura how he looked at his time at Oklahoma State when looking at his entire baseball career, and his answer was simple.
“The people are special,” He said. “The people you play with are special. There was a start of a legacy before I got here. You want to be a part of it.”
He is back there now, finishing his degree and coaching as a volunteer assistant for the Cowboys baseball team. Ventura had been coming back for football games, and he decided he wanted to do something that was fun and meant something. The only spot open on the staff was for a student coach, but luckily, Ventura fit the criteria. Ventura says it is the perfect spot for him, and he loves being around the players.
“I know I wouldn’t have done this anywhere else,” he said.