While we’re well into the MLB season now, there have been other notables game happening in the baseball world lately. The College World Series has been going on in Omaha in recent weeks, and tonight, Florida and LSU will play the first game of the finals of the to crown the NCAA Division I champion for 2023.
If history tells us anything, you will see several players — not just from the final two teams, but from all eight that competed in Omaha — on major league fields in the coming years. Going all the way back to the first couple years the championship was held, you can find a couple notable players that took part every year, and that includes many Yankees.
In recognition of that, let’s look back at some of the Yankees who had notable runs through the College World Series.
Of current Yankees, there are two that went to Omaha and had especially big performances. In 2009, DJ LeMahieu helped lead the LSU Tigers to a national championship, and was named to the All-Tournament Team after going 12-for-27 in the six games LSU played in Omaha. He also came up with a massive hit when the Tigers were down to their last out in Game 1 of the championship series against Texas.
Sophomore DJ LeMahieu tied the 2009 College World Series with a double in the ninth— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) December 17, 2020
Drafted 2nd round by the Cubs 13 days prior, LeMahieu homered this game and scored the winning run in extras. He led LSU with a .444 BA and 1.183 OPS in six World Series games. Tigers won it all pic.twitter.com/m1qnBEMbvU
Six years later, Harrison Bader made the All-Tournament team after helping Florida make the last four of the event. The Gators ended up losing to Virginia to miss out on making the finals, but Bader literally went down swinging in that game. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, but he only scored once, as the rest of his team couldn’t bring him home.
One former Yankee and now current rival was once named the CWS’s best player when he won Most Outstanding Player in 2012. Rob Refsnyder helped Arizona win the title in 2012. He hit .476 over the Wildcats’ run to the championship, which happened not long after the Yankees drafted him in the fifth round of that year’s MLB Draft.
Refsnyder was not the first future Yankee to be named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. One of the others was a player who was destined for both the Bronx and Cooperstown. Dave Winfield also won the honor back in 1973 when he helped Minnesota nearly win a championship. Interestingly enough though, it was arguably more for his exploits as a pitcher for the Golden Gophers.
Dave Winfield pitching for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, 1973. pic.twitter.com/YUfAN5OXON— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) February 1, 2023
Having already blanked Oklahoma a couple days before, Winfield took the mound for Minnesota in their semifinal game against USC. Throughout the first eight innings, Winfield had only allowed one hit and had struck out 15 batters through the first eight innings, as Minnesota built up a 7-0 lead. Unfortunately, a bad call on what should’ve been an out, an error behind him, and a couple singles led to Winfield getting pulled. After all that, the Golden Gophers completely lost their nerve and melted down, eventually losing 8-7.
It was hard to blame much on Winfield for losing what has been described as one of the greatest college baseball games ever. The fact that he was still honored as the best player despite being on a losing side while playing a position he didn’t in the majors is true evidence of Winfield’s greatness.
While he didn’t make the All-Tournament team or anything, Roger Clemson helped lead Texas to a national championship with his efforts in 1983. He was on the mound in the clinching win for the Longhorns:
Other notable Yankees to take part in the CWS include Chris Chambliss (1969), Mike Mussina (1990), Jason Giambi (1991), Jacoby Ellsbury (2005), Lance Berkman (1997), and Robin Ventura (1986), among others. Brief Yankee Dustin Ackley played in three different College World Series at UNC from 2007-09. Yankees at the CWS go back to the early days of the event as Jim Brideweser — a Yankee from 1951-53 — played in it with USC in 1948 and ‘49 in the second and third times the tournament was held. There are plenty more examples from over the years too.
Who knows, maybe there will even be a future Yankee star on the field in Omaha today.