The Texas Tech baseball season came to a heartbreaking end last week in Omaha. For the returning players and coaching staff, the team has plenty to look forward to and nothing to hang their heads for after winning a Big 12 title, a Regional, a Super Regional, and eliminating the #1 team in the country at the College World Series. For those not returning, they either have professional baseball or some other career ahead of them.
I wanted to write a special thank you to one particularly inspirational player. He didn’t lead the team in homeruns, batting average, or runs scored. But he was a leader nonetheless.
Catcher Tyler Floyd became the first Red Raider in team history to be named the Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the year this season. Before that, he was twice named Academic All-Big 12. He also won the Elite 90 award this year, given to the player with the highest GPA out of all the teams who reach the College World Series.
At the plate, Floyd was easily overlooked as his teammates Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Neslony, Tanner Gardner, and Stephen Smith were hitting bombs routinely. Behind the plate as a catcher, Floyd was overshadowed at times by the phenomenal young pitching staff, though the site of Floyd gunning down runners was not uncommon.
Catcher is one of those positions where you almost don’t want to be noticed. If people are paying attention to the Catcher, it’s likely due to a lot of passed balls or errant throws in an attempt to catch baserunners. Floyd may not have been the first name that popped into Texas Tech fans’ heads, but his impact on the field was hard to match.
I specifically remember when the Oklahoma Sooners came to Lubbock this season. Going for the sweep in game three, Texas Tech got off to a slow start, falling behind 6-1 early on. While it wasn’t the catcher’s fault that the team was losing, he was replaced after multiple passed balls in the first few innings. Tyler Floyd entered the game, bringing a calming presence with his senior leadership. Coincidence or not, Texas Tech came back to win 13-7 with Floyd behind the plate. There was a noticeable shift in the Red Raiders’ team defense with Floyd behind the plate.
Floyd came through clutch when his team needed him the most against New Mexico in the Lubbock Regional. Struggling to gain any momentum and trailing 2-0 in the 5th inning, Floyd picked off a baserunner at 1st who took too much of a leadoff after the pitch was thrown. The out ended the inning before New Mexico could plate any runs. Texas Tech went on to win 3-2.
During the Super Regional against ECU, facing elimination in game two, Floyd was infamously called out while sliding into home. He was safe, as replay would confirm, and the run would have given Texas Tech a lead in the 9th inning. For a moment, I was concerned Floyd’s legacy at Texas Tech would be a blown call by an umpire, robbing his team of a chance to advance to Omaha.
But we all know how the story played out. The Red Raiders won the game in extra innings, and Floyd scored what would become the game-winning run anyway. He scored another iconic run in Omaha, sliding into home barely beating a throw from the outfield on a Stephen Smith double. The shot of Floyd getting up to celebrate with his hair flying all over will live on in the memories of Tech fans for a long time.
For as common as it is to see a player with all the talent in the world squander it, what’s outstanding is to see a player be successful for every reason except for raw talent. That’s not to say Tyler Floyd lacks talent; he has plenty. But what made him a special baseball player wasn’t his talent – it was every other aspect of his game: the effort, the leadership, the mentality, and the perseverance that so many players lack across various sports.
Tyler Floyd deserved every single victory, accolade, and title that came his way. He ended his Texas Tech career a two time All-Academic Big 12, a Big 12 champion, Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the year, and with two trips to the College World Series. He was a David who made a brilliant college career of slaying Goliaths.
Hats off to one of my favorite Red Raiders of all time. Well done, Tyler. Thank you for being a remarkable student athlete at our beloved alma mater. Best of luck to you in all of your future endeavors; this is only your beginning.