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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Major leaguers make return to Cougar Field


MLB veterans Jesse Crain, Brad Lincoln and Rob Johnson were among alumni who played against the 2014 Cougars at the new Cougar Field on Saturday to take part in the annual Fan Appreciation Day & Alumni Game in preparation for the 2014 season opener on Feb. 14 vs. Nicholls State under fourth-year head coach Todd Whitting.

Former players ranged from the 1967 World Series team to drafted players from last year’s ball club.

The 2014 Cougars came away with an 8-0 win over the alumni, highlighted by a three-hit shutout by five pitchers in junior Aaron Garza, sophomore Jake Lemoine, senior Tyler Ford and juniors Jared Robinson and David Longville. Sophomore third baseman and 2013 C-USA Freshman of the Year Justin Montemayor showed well with a three-for-three day, including two RBIs and a double.

Montemayor’s offensive effort was followed by two hits and an RBI by senior first baseman Casey Grayson, while senior catcher Caleb Barker drove in two RBIs on a hit and sacrifice fly. Sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance had three stolen bases to go along with a one-for-two effort on a sacrifice fly and walk with an RBI.


What they’re saying:

Astros reliever Jesse Crain

On coming back to Houston for the alumni game

“It’s exciting to be back out here again. I believe this is the fourth year now Todd (Whitting) has done this. It’s a lot of fun to see the old players and to see the new product that’s on the field. I feel like they’re better every single year. To come out, and show the kids the tradition of UH baseball. They have a lot of supporters and guys who like to give back. It’s fun, and it means a lot to be back out here.”

Thoughts on the new FieldTurf

“It’s awesome, and to be honest, I was a little worried about the turf, but it turned out awesome. You should never doubt Todd — he does things the right way and always gets it done to make it look nice. It looks great, and it’s definitely going to help the future of this program.”

On being back in Houston with the Astros

“We’re excited — that’s for sure. Being able to play at San Jac (San Jacinto Junior College), then coming to the University of Houston, and now playing for the Major League Baseball team in Houston, it means a lot to play in the community you’ve been in. It means more than playing somewhere else. I’m grateful for this opportunity. It should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”


Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brad Lincoln

On the Alumni game

“It’s a great event — I’ve been coming for the last three years now. Todd (Whitting) has been putting on an awesome program, and he’s done a lot for this program. To come back and be able to have camaraderie with these guys is something I look forward to every year. We get to tell stories with guys who have been in pro ball and families that have been started. It’s always a good time, for sure.

On the new FieldTurf

“It’s awesome. I wish we had this when I was playing here. It’s one of those things where the upgrade is not only going to help with the play, but help with the recruiting aspect as well. It’s without question great for the program.”

On the team this year

“They look good — no doubt about that. Whitting has got the caliber of players that should get them to postseason play, which I know is their goal.”


Head coach Todd Whitting

Thoughts on the alumni game

“I thought we gave great effort today. One thing I told the team just now was, the thing I was looking for was how well we competed. How we compete, and how we take care of business today and do what we’ve been training to do. I thought we came out and played well. I’m really excited about the pitching today. Saw a few guys’ velocity increase, and we did a great job of throwing strikes. I’m really pleased with today, and it’s good for them; it’s a nice dress rehearsal for them. There’s a couple things we need to work on in practice to get ready for the opener, but overall we gave great effort.”

On the alumni coming back to Cougar Field

“It’s awesome to have them back. They enjoy coming out here taking a few ground balls, and the feedback on the new turf has been outstanding. Everybody is excited about it, and everybody loves the field. I appreciate these guys coming out. It’s always good to have these guys come home. There’s a lot of tradition to this program and a lot of winning teams that have been through here. It’s nice to get those guys back, and they’re an active group. They come around the ballpark all the time, have great attendance at all of our events. I’m really pleased for them to come back on campus.”

On the season being less than two weeks away

“We have to keep grinding. We’re not ready yet as a team. We have a little less than two weeks to get ready, so we have some things on the checklist that we need to get punched out. I think we’re in pretty good shape right now, and I know they’re anxious to play, but we have work to do.”

 Additional reporting by Matt Bodiford. 

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