Six months ago, the Kansas baseball team jumped on a star TCU pitcher early before the Horned Frogs rallied for a victory in Lawrence.
Brandon Finnegan, however, got the victory.
“They came out swinging early, and after that, I got locked in and shut them down for the rest of the game,” Finnegan recalled.
On Monday, Finnegan was about 50 miles east of Hoglund Park, but he’s in a different world these days. Finnegan was with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium as they met the media horde ahead of the World Series.
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“It’s insane that four months ago I was sitting in a classroom,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan thought June was a crazy month. He was drafted by the Royals with the 17th overall pick, and was trying to help the Horned Frogs make the College World Series.
October has been even more zany.
As he was being doused with champagne in the Royals’ clubhouse after the American League Championship Series, Finnegan said that as a Horned Frog, he couldn’t have imagined playing in the World Series with the Royals.
Why would he? If he gets into a game, Finnegan will be the first player to appear in both events in the same year.
“I was more worried about getting to the College World Series then,” he said. “They’ve been working for this for 29 years. These guys are awesome. They deserve everything they got. The fans deserve everything they got. This town deserves everything they just got. It’s awesome. These guys work day in and day out. They deserve it.”
Finnegan, too. After a brief stint in the minors, he found a spot in a stellar Royals’ bullpen, and thrived when called upon in the regular season. Finnegan allowed six hits and one run in seven innings, with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
In the Wild Card Game, Finnegan tossed 2 1/3 strong innings, then got his first major-league victory in the AL Division Series against the Angels. A bit of bad luck tripped up Finnegan in the ALCS against Baltimore, but it’s clear the playoffs haven’t left him star-struck.
“This arena, this stage has had no effect on him,” Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “If anything, he’s amped it up a little bit, he’s risen a little bit. When we drafted and got him, that’s kind of what he was. He comes right at you and he’s not afraid. He came better than advertised, actually.”
Certainly better than that day in Lawrence.
Finnegan allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings. While in Lawrence that weekend in April, there were no thoughts of one day pitching down the road at Kauffman Stadium. He was just another college kid on Massachusetts Street.
“We went down to a little strip of restaurants and bars they have and just went to eat,” Finnegan recalled. “We couldn’t really do much. We were college kids on our own, you can’t really do much, you’ve got curfews and stuff.”
Finnegan paused and the college kid emerged.
“It was fun, not bad,” he said. “TCU’s definitely better.”
To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/pgrathoff