Tres Barrera can’t get Omaha out of his head.
Barrera, a designated hitter, catcher and first baseman, got a taste of the College World Series his freshman year when the Longhorns exceeded expectations and ended the season with a loss to eventual champion Vanderbilt in the semifinals.
Now a junior, Barrera wants that taste again.
“It’s a feeling that you can’t even explain going to Omaha,” Barrera said. “I still go to sleep thinking about it. I want to get back there so bad because I know once we’re there, we have a chance of winning it all — and that’s all I’ve been working for.”
The Longhorns started last season with high expectations, but Barrera’s team-leading nine home runs were not enough to conceal the flaws of a team that had the 227th best batting average in the country. Texas snuck into the NCAA postseason with a surprise Big 12 tournament run, but a 30-27 record and subsequent sputtering in the Dallas Baptist Regional of the NCAA tournament were better indications of the team’s standing.
“When you lose, sometimes guys tend to drift off and go into their own little bubble and want to do their own thing, and I feel like that was the case a little bit last year,” the junior said. “You can’t win the big one if your team is not unified.”
Barrera now returns a year older and wiser, now having experienced the downs in addition to the ups that baseball deals. Head coach Augie Garrido said Barrera and the four other juniors are going to play a big role if this team is to get back to Omaha.
“I think that the players that went to Omaha as freshmen have a completely different attitude toward their role as leaders,” Garrido said. “I think that’s where the strength of this team is going to be placed.
Barrera’s role will be much different this time around. In 2014, Barrera spent most of his time as a catcher. Now he will likely rotate between catcher, first baseman and designated hitter, all while growing into the leadership role the team needs.
But the versatile junior has been working his whole career for such an opportunity.
“Deep down he’s always been a leader,” redshirt sophomore pitcher Morgan Cooper said. “If something needs to be said he’s going to say it. You need somebody like that.“
Barrera knows though that those upperclassmen who led Texas to Omaha in 2014 did not just talk their team to Omaha. Now he has to do the same.
“I know when I was a freshman when I saw Mark Payton doing something, I wanted to do what he did,” Barrera said. “So I just want to be that type of role model getting everybody to do the right thing.”