Oct. 21, 2011

2008 Sprague feature


Nine World Series Innings with Ed Sprague

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


We are taking a look at Division I head coaches who played in Major League Baseball’s World Series. Today we talk with Ed Sprague of Pacific.


Sprague enters his ninth season with the Tigers. Pacific has reached the 30-win plateau in three of the past six seasons.


An All-American at Stanford, Sprague helped the Cardinal win the 1987 and 1988 national championships. An All-American in 1988 and a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, Sprague was inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.


During the summer of 1988, Sprague played for Team USA and earned a Gold Medal in the Summer Olympics.


Sprague was a first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1988 MLB Draft. He won titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 during his 11-year big league career. Sprague finished with 152 career home runs and 558 RBI.


Sprague is the only player to win a College World Series, Olympic Gold Medal and Major League Baseball World Series.


His wife, Kristen Babb Sprague, won an Olympic Gold Medal in synchronized swimming in 1992.


First Inning - You won World Series titles in two of your first three seasons in the Major Leagues. Did you think championships were going to be regular occurrences during your career?

I was fortunate to play on some great teams early in my career. You always hope that you are going to be in contention every year with a chance to go to the postseason, but growing up around the game I knew not to take it for granted. I just tried to enjoy it as much as possible knowing next year is not guaranteed.


Second Inning - You were a regular in 1993 after seeing limited action in 1992. Did that second title mean more to you?

Each title holds a special place. Even though my game-winning home run in '92 probably kick started my career and gave me a chance to be an everyday player, I think playing everyday in '93 and going through all of the highs and lows of the season individually and as a team, I think I got a little more satisfaction out of '93.


Third Inning - Can you describe the feeling in the dugout and in the stadium when Joe Carter hit the series-clinching home run in 1993?

I think going into the bottom of the ninth most guys were probably getting mentally geared up for a Game 7, but when Rickey [Henderson] walked you could feel the excitement start to build. After Paul [Molitor] singled, I think we felt we were going to tie it up. Everyone was rooting for Joe to get a ball in the gap and when the ball left his bat we thought Molly can score on that and then boom the ball left the stadium. At that point it was straight pandemonium.


Fourth Inning - Did your experience in the College World Series prepare you for postseason play in the Major Leagues?

I think so. Rosenblatt had such an electric atmosphere it was very similar to playing in the postseason. It didn't have the noise level as say the Metrodome but you had to learn how to deal with your emotions on a big stage.


Fifth Inning - Your father pitched for eight seasons in the big leagues, but did not pitch in the postseason. Did you ever talk with him about playing in October?

My dad certainly had a huge impact on my career but I can't recall any specific conversations about October baseball.


Sixth Inning - Do you look back each October at those championship runs in Toronto?

I have more recently only because the Blue Jays have done some reunions honoring the '92 and '93 teams. Everyone is now retired and it has been fun to reconnect with some of the guys again. We did a golf tournament a couple of years ago and when we got on the bus after the tourney to go back to the hotel it felt like we had just finished up a three-game road sweep and were headed home. All the players took their same seats and the banter that went on was like we had never left.


Seventh Inning - Do you think the All-Star Game should determine home field advantage in the World Series?

I like that they gave some meaning to the All- Star Game. I am not sure how the players today like it but I do think it has made it a little more competitive and a lot of the guys playing in the game have a chance to end up in the World Series and it's nice to start at home.


Eighth Inning - Do you talk often with your current players at Pacific about your experiences as a college and professional player?

I only talk about it if I feel it is a teachable moment. Generally I talk to them about things I learned from veterans like Molitor or [Dave] Winfield as I was a young player that helped me forge a long career. Or sometimes we talk about what goes on in hitters’ minds, stuff I learned from picking guys brains like [John] Olerud, [Roberto] Alomar, or Shawn Green.


Ninth Inning - How did fall practice go for the Tigers and what are your thoughts for the 2012 campaign?

We are still in the middle of our fall practice. We have a lot of new faces and are excited about the upcoming season. Our players are working hard on the field, in the weight room, and in the classroom. I think we have a very competitive and exciting non-conference schedule that I am confident will prepare to battle in the always tough Big West Conference.


(photos courtesy of Pacific Media Relations Office)