Stanford Spotlight - Chris O'Riordan
May 12, 2001
Rooter and supporter in 1999. Huge contributor in 2000. Veteran leader in 2001. This pretty much sums up Chris O'Riordan's first three years of baseball on The Farm, especially in the month of May.
O'Riordan walked on to the team as a freshman, confronting an entirely new baseball scene. 'It was a completely different experience from high school where you are counted on to be a leader and one of the top players,' he said. 'My role was definitely as a supporter, just taking my pre-game and cheering the team on.'
In May of 1999, there was plenty of cheering to do as the Cardinal went 12-1 in the month of May leading up to the NCAA Regionals, absolutely steam-rolling over opponents, seven times posting double-digit run totals. But a sideline role wasn't the only obligation in mind for the second baseman his freshman year.
'I knew that if I proved myself in practice and went out every day and played hard that I could make an impression on the coaches so that I would get a shot in maybe my sophomore or junior year.'
In 2000, the hard worker reaped the fruits of his labor.
'At the beginning of the year, I didn't know if I was going to get a shot or not, but things happened and I got my shot,' summarized O'Riordan.
In early March, O'Riordan took over as the everyday second baseman and never looked back, starting 46 of the final 47 games. Not only was his defense solid, but his bat was on fire. In ten regular season May games in which the team went 8-2 preceding the NCAA Regionals, O'Riordan hit .438, going 14-for-32 with 11 RBI and 12 runs scored. In the final two regular season games versus UCLA, O'Riordan went 4-for-7 with six RBI and helped the Cardinal capture a share of the Pac-10 championship.
Going into his first post-season collegiate experience, O'Riordan said, 'It was pretty surrealistic.' After winning the Regional and defeating Nebraska in the Super Regional, the team headed back to Omaha for the third consecutive year. But for O'Riordan, this was his first taste of the Midwest Big Dance. 'That whole town lives, eats, and breaths college baseball for an entire week. The people love it and the players are fired up. It was an unbelievable experience, and I guess that you could call it surreal again. Just a year ago I was sitting on the bench, and now I'm playing in the College World Series, and it was awesome.'
This year, O'Riordan has established his role as one of the team leaders. After leading the club in hitting last season with a .366 batting average, he has continued to swing the aluminum well in 2001 and presently boasts a .355 batting average while ranking first on the team with career-highs in home runs (9), RBI (55) and stolen bases (15).
As the Cardinal enter the backstretch of the season, the club seems to have pulled out of a minor funk. 'You don't want a slump to happen,' says O'Riordan of the team's recent 2-5 stretch. 'But, when it does, you just have to keep it in perspective and ask yourself what can we do to get out of it. We need to get out of it by going out and playing with reckless abandon like we did at the beginning of the year.'
O'Riordan and the team have definitely bounced back. The club is 4-1 thus far in May and O'Riordan is batting .417 (10-for-24) during the month. With the NCAA Regional less than two weeks away, the Cardinal seems to be getting hot again at the right time.
'Momentum. Momentum. The whole season is important, but the end is crucial in getting your team where it needs to be for post-season play,' says O'Riordan.
Reflecting upon the close of the 2000 regular season, O'Riordan stated that, 'It was nice to have so many older guys who had been there before: Gall, Borchard, Muth, Bruntlett, and Thompson. They were so relaxed and calm and helped the younger guys to keep things in perspective. The Regional was just another weekend -- a big weekend and a fun weekend -- but just another weekend of baseball where you have to go and play your game.'
This May, O'Riordan will not only look to offensively and defensively jumpstart the club's road back to Omaha, but he will also take upon part of the leadership responsibility of last year's experienced core. Whether he's at the plate, turning the deuce, or helping harness the newcomers' excitement and jitters, the second baseman will contribute to the Cardinal's final regular season surge. With each new May, O'Riordan's role on the team expands, and he just gets better, and better, and better.
by Chris Curtis
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