A picture worth 1,000 words - Tucson News Now

A picture worth 1,000 words

Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - It was one of the most memorable images of the 2016 College World Series, caught by an ESPN camera. Wildcat first baseman Cody Ramer with his head in his hands. Arizona head coach Jay Johnson with his arm draped around him, his other arm draped around pitcher Nathan Bannister whose own arm was draped around first baseman Ryan Aguilar. The expressions on their faces varied but the emotions were the same. All sat there watching Coastal Carolina celebrate the 2016 College World Series title on the mound. 

Months later, I asked Johnson about that moment and what was going through his mind sitting there with his three crucial members of his team. Here is what he had to say. 

"You look at Cody right there, Cody Ramer was the best player in the Pac-12. We’re not even touching the College World Series without him and his play and the story of his evolution as a player. For three years he was a back-up player. That was a tough, tough game for him making that error, which I don’t even think of that error when I think of the final game. If I ever had a son, I would want him to be like Cody Ramer. That’s my feelings for him.

“Nathan Bannister. What he did, he lost 38 pounds and transformed himself from a “steady innings-eater keeping-the-ballgames” guy to one of the best pitchers in the country.

“Ryan Aguilar. What the success of the team meant to those three guys is why we’re in coaching. To get people to believe in something greater than themselves. I was so proud of them and at that moment so hurt for them to be that close to accomplishing what everyone in the world thought was unthinkable. That was tough.

“And the other part of it is, probably the realization of not getting to coach those guys any more was difficult. For them, probably not getting to be together and compete because 99.9 percent of 2016 was nothing but positive.

“Those three guys were the pioneers for it when you talk about work ethic. What all of them did to transform themselves to become great players, what all of them walking into my office on a day in day out basis, hey what can I do to make the team and the organization better? The selflessness that they played with. The care for their teammates.

“At that moment, I’m not thinking about the disappointment of losing the national championship game. For me it’s making sure those guys are okay. Especially in Cody’s sense because they poured everything they could into it. I mean the nine months, ten months that group spent together I believed transformed a lot of people’s lives. Mine included. I learned as much from them as they did from me and our coaching staff.”

Arizona baseball holds its first official practice of the 2017 season Friday. Their first game comes in a home-stand against Eastern Kentucky beginning Friday, February 17th at 7:00pm.

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