A SUCCESSFUL DEBUT
The Texas Collegiate League experienced immediate success in its inaugural season of 2004. Some 250 of the nations top collegiate players from 75 schools participated in the TCL season. It was a season that left players, coaches, team officials, host families, and baseball fans in general with a lifetime of memories.
Weather played a major role in the opening weeks of the league. Rain forced the postponement of 11 of 12 games on the first three nights of the schedule. The first ever Texas Collegiate League contest was played on June 10 in front of a capacity crowd in Graham as the Roughnecks defeated the Weatherford Wranglers, 2-1. The rain subsided but overall, 31 of the first 84 games through July 1 were postponed, forcing a heavy schedule of games down the stretch.
Steer Stadium in Graham was also the site of the first Texas Collegiate League All-Star Classic on July 12. The Tris Speaker Division earned a 7-3 victory over the Rogers Hornsby Division, scoring three times in the fourth to snap a 1-1 tie. Speaker Division starter Drew Johnson retired all six batters he faced to earn the games Most Valuable Player Award. McKinneys Austin Boggs, the son of former major league pitcher Tommy Boggs, added a two-run homer in the victory. Jim Morris, whose incredible story was portrayed in the hit movie The Rookie, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in front of another large crowd.
The playoffs brought additional excitement. In the Speaker Division, Coppell upset regular season champ McKinney in a two-game semifinal sweep while Graham won a thrilling three-game series from Weatherford in the Hornsby Division.
The championship series between Coppell and Graham also went the distance. The Copperheads earned a 4-3 win in the series opener at Graham before the Roughnecks tied the series the next night with a 5-4 victory on the road. With the title on the line on August 14 at Steer Stadium, Coppell won the TCL Championship with a 5-4 decision. Outfielder Matt Young of the Copperheads was named as the championship series Most Outstanding Player. Two weeks later, Young signed a pro contract with the Atlanta Braves organization.
Young and many other Copperheads and Roughnecks had little time to rest as 52 of the leagues top prospects took part in the Dr Pepper Futures Game the next afternoon at Ameriquest Field in Arlington. In a game where the rosters were selected in consultation with Major League scouts, the White Futures Team scored a 2-0 win over the Gray Team. First baseman Brett Pill of Coppell drove in the games only runs with a second inning double and was named the contests Most Outstanding Player.
The Dr Pepper Futures Game was televised on a tape-delayed basis by Fox Sports Net Southwest, which also carried the weekly program Baseball-TCL Style during the summer months. Thousands of fans also enjoyed TCL baseball at the eight parks that stretched from McKinney to Graham in north Texas.
Bigger and better things are in store for the Texas Collegiate League in year two. But the inaugural season will always be remembered. It was a great beginning.
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