By Laken Litman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
If you had told Texas’ second baseman Travis Tucker four years ago that he would be one of the most productive players starting under the lights of UFCU Disch-Falk Field, playing for the most winning coach in college baseball at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, he would never have believed you.
It wasn’t that he didn’t think he was good enough, but not the path he originally intended to take.
Tucker started his college career at junior college because his mentor and cousin K.J. Hendricks, who has played professional baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization since 2001, took that route before playing Division I ball.
“I have always wanted to play pro,” Tucker said. “My cousin, who was a real big factor, is seven years older than I and he went the (junior college) route. Since I looked up to him and he was my mentor, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to a junior college, then go to UTA.”
But after Tucker played for McClennan Junior College in Waco, Texas, his freshman season, he realized he could have the chance to play D-I ball at Texas.
“I wasn’t really in the spotlight when I came to Texas,” Tucker said. “But I knew if I worked hard and played my game, then I would earn a starting spot.”
And he kept his word. Beginning his sophomore season, Tucker has been at starter since.
“He’s continued to improve the three years he’s been here and he’s been a starter the whole time,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “He’s an invaluable part of this team.”
Tucker is the type of player all coaches want. A guy whose drive, ambition and energy is purposefully contagious.
“He’s totally committed to the philosophy of the team,” Garrido noted. “That’s to do things right and to give the best effort every day. He’s totally committed to giving himself to the team, his teammates and the people around him. He’s always trying to help people and he’s always doing the best he can to be the best he can.”
One of the reasons Tucker shines is in his ability and willingness to learn from his mistakes.
“I dealt with a lot of failure last year when I probably had one of the worst years swinging the bat,” he said. “But that got me more mentally stronger to deal with this season. Without having that season, I don’t know where I’d be at right now.”
Many get discouraged when they make mistakes. But instead of hanging up his bat and glove, Tucker opted for the learning experience and turned his mistakes into an opportunity.
“I told myself that stuff happens,” he said. “A ball goes a foot or two and it’s a hit, and that’s just how it goes. I didn’t have one of those lucky years, so I kept on working and didn’t give up and kept on persevering.”
Now in his senior season, Tucker leads the team with 55 hits and 35 runs, and has recorded 21 RBI. He believes that his most shining moment as a Longhorn is yet to come.
“I think our team can go to the College World Series. Without a doubt,” Tucker said. “We have great pitching – we probably have the best pitching staff in the country and our hitting is coming around and we’re going to be a tough team to beat.
“I will just keep on working hard, keep on showing the guys that hard work does pay off and the determination that we have to win and go as far as we can is there. We just need to keep it going and don’t get discouraged. Anything can happen.”
Tucker is a true believer, and still frequently pinches himself because he feels he is actually living the dream.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself here playing at the University of Texas,” Tucker said. “Just stepping on this field, I mean I still look at my jersey and think, ‘Wow, I’m playing for the University of Texas.’ It’s a pretty neat deal playing for the best coaches in the best facilities in the country.”
What sets Tucker apart from other players is his personality. Garrido says that what makes Tucker unique is he can overcome the adversities of baseball and stay upbeat, positive and confident, and then radiate those qualities to others around him.
“He’s a good player, a scrappy player and gets the job done,” said shortstop Brandon Loy. “He’s a funny kid. We just joke around a lot and talk about who’s covering second base and joke about that.”
Loy says that when there is an opposing runner on second, he and Tucker always talk to him.
“If we talk about him, we’re talking to him because (Tucker) knows a lot of our opponents,” Loy said. “He’ll always introduce me to them.”
Not only does Tucker have a pure, undying love for the game, but he always makes his baseball experience enjoyable. He also takes the opportunities to teach the younger players. Although Tucker begs to differ, he is definitely a mentor.
“I don’t really see myself as a mentor,” he said. “I see myself as someone that likes to help. All the older guys always helped me along the way telling me what to do and what not to do. I just want to see people play well. I just want everybody to have the chance and opportunity to play as well as they can.”
Tucker recalled that he when he was an under classmen, Nick Peoples and Randy Boone were his role models.
“Peeps was always on me helping me out,” he said. “Boone was a leader. He was a pitcher so he was more intense and more fierce. Peeps took me under his wing. I really looked up to those guys. It’s kind of like what goes around comes around I guess. I was fortunate enough to have those guys around so I might as well help somebody else out.”
As his final season at Texas winds down, Tucker explains that in looking back through his collegiate career he would not have changed at thing.
“One of my goals is to play professionally. If I get the opportunity I’ll be fortunate, but if not, I won’t have any regrets,” he said.