By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University’s surging baseball team heads to Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend to play what is both an important and an emotional three-game series, important to the team in its quest to gain a place in the NCAA championships and emotional to its coach, Randy Mazey, for it brings him to the place he called home for the six years before being named WVU’s head coach in June 2012.
How much does Fort Worth mean to Mazey?
“That’s where my kids were born,” he said when asked to recount his favorite memories of his time there serving as TCU pitching coach. “That’s something we’ll remember the rest of our lives. If I could have named one of them Fort and the other Worth, that would have been perfect.”
Fortunately for him, his wife, Amanda Ross Mazey, who does a lot of Internet video work for WVU, had other ideas, and the children wound up being named Weston and Sierra, although there is a wonderful story of how they arrived at those names.
“When our kids were born, our rule was we each came up with a list and the other one got to veto two names off the top of the list,” Mazey recalled before leaving for Fort Worth. “I always wanted to name my son Willie, so he would be Willie Mazey.”
The connection with, perhaps, the greatest player of all-time, Willie Mays, could not be missed.
“That would have made a lot of sense,” Mazey said, “but that was the first one she vetoed.”
“As I look back on it, that would have been a lot of pressure to put on the little guy,” Mazey admitted.
It is a familiar scenario, for the same thing took place in the Hertzel household. Having gotten through naming No. 1 son Robert Thomson Hertzel after childhood hero Bobby Thomson, my wife drew the line on naming our daughter Wihelmina May so we could call her Willie after Willie Mays.
Amy Lynn certainly worked much better.
But enough of that aside. The point is that Fort Worth is a special place to visit for Mazey and his family.
Those in the community in Morgantown understand how popular this family must have been in Fort Worth, a much larger community than this.
They are an outgoing, friendly group who seem to be community minded. Mazey’s work with his baseball team last year when there was a tornado outbreak through Oklahoma between the end of the regular baseball season and the start of the Big 12 Tournament is a perfect example of how Mazey involves himself and his family — be it his wife and children or his baseball family — in doing the right thing.
Certainly in Fort Worth they are looking as forward to his return as he is to returning ... if only the circumstances were different.
“It would be nice to go back without having to play games,” Mazey said. “Those guys in the other dugout are some of my best friends, and there are players there that I recruited and got so close to and got so close to my family.
“It’s great to see those guys, but to compete against them when there’s so much at stake, it’s just not fun.”
In professional sports it is not a rare thing. Players play a good part of their career in one city, then are traded or leave through free agency and find themselves facing someone who had been close to them for a long period of time wearing the other uniform.
Be it Barry Bonds coming back to Pittsburgh and playing against Jim Leyland, who had nursed him through his early years, or, say, a Jason Kendall leaving Pittsburgh and coming back the next year and facing a pitcher he’d been catching the previous season with the game on the line, a different set of emotions is at work.
“It’s fun to compete against your friends when you’re playing golf or something, but when there’s so much at stake, the team that wins the series will have such an advantage. ... I mean, it’s awful to shake hands with some of your best friends after a game, win or lose or draw,” Mazey said.
“But the nature of our business is you have to win games, so we’re going to go down there and try as hard as we can to win.”
As for the baseball, the series against TCU opens with a 7:30 game tonight, a 5 p.m. game Saturday, with Sunday’s finale at 2 p.m. Sunday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest, while all three games can be heard on the affiliates of the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG College.
WVU has won four of its last five games to lift its record to 16-8, 2-0 in the Big 12, while TCU is 16-12 and 2-4 in conference. The opener matches star left-handers Harrison Musgrave of WVU, who is 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA, against the Horned Frogs’ Brandon Finnegan, who stands at 5-2 with a 1.42 ERA.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.