Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Walk on stories are a dime a dozen among collegiate athletes, but few have traveled a path quite like Oklahoma's Drew Krittenbrink.
He was a four-year letterwinner in baseball, basketball and golf at Okarche High School in Okarche, Okla. Scholarship offers came, but none of the schools interested Krittenbrink. He wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma.
He had a passion for OU and loved everything that defined being a Sooner. It was a relationship that began with his family.
"It really started with my family," he said. "We always went to football, basketball and baseball games. Igrew up loving the Sooners."
In the summer of 2010, Krittenbrink tried out for the Oklahoma baseball team. He was told there was not space on the 35-man roster for the right-handed pitcher, but the coaches encouraged him to stick around.
He enrolled at Oklahoma and continued to better himself as an athlete, all while supporting the team. His parents supported his decision to pursue a quality education and find his place on the baseball roster.
"We were perfectly fine with that," said his father, David Krittenbrink. "He was on some academic scholarships there, and we were supporting him 100 percent."
While struggling to find his place on campus, he had other issues on his mind.
Krittenbrink's mother was battling lung cancer.
It was a difficult time for his family and required excessive amounts of treatment for his mother. With his parents traveling to Houston on a regular basis, Krittenbrink turned to his sister, Kara, for guidance.
"We were going back and forth to MD Anderson [Cancer Center] in Houston," his father said. "My daughter Kara was a senior at OU when Drew was a freshman. I guess you might say Kara was able to take care of Drew while we were on the road so much."
In 2011, Krittenrbrink was with his summer-league team in McKinney, Texas when he received a call from his dad. His mother was not doing well.
"My dad said my mom was in the hospital, they needed to take her to the emergency room and I needed to get home now," Krittenbrink said. "I sped home and was probably there for three days in the hospital when she was in ICU."
Cancer patients frequently go from bad to worse before becoming stable, but this time was different.
"I kind of knew," Krittenbrink said. "She hadn't been doing as well as she had in the months before. I knew right then, something was really wrong this time."
Days later, Julie Krittenbrink lost her battle with cancer.
The loss was difficult, but Krittenbrink found strength in reason.
"I knew it was her time to go," he said. "She had been battling it for three years and had given it her all. It was God's plan to take her then."
In the wake of the loss of his mother, Krittenbrink returned to Norman and tried out for the team for a second time. His mind was clouded, but he was determined not to let recent events deter him from reaching his goal.
"My mom, she didn't want to be a burden for us, me and my sister," Krittenbrink said. "She wanted us to keep living out lives, so I just thought of that. She would not want me to give up something I love. She would want me to keep going, and that's really what fuels me."
He showed up in better shape and more polished than before, and the coaches took notice.
"He got stronger, a little more velocity," OU head coach Sunny Golloway said. "His freshman year, he was clearly overmatched. This time, we could tell he was determined to come out and make the team."
Despite all the attention he attracted, he never got his call. Days, weeks and months passed, still no call.
That following January, Krittenbrink found out he had made the roster. It was a proud moment for the entire family.
"We were very ecstatic about it," his dad said. "He felt like he had accomplished something. We did too."
Since making the roster, Krittenbrink's contributions to overall attitude and spirit of the team, as well as his work ethic to become a better pitcher every day, have not gone unnoticed
"He's a quiet guy, hardworking," Golloway said. "He puts the team first, never personal about himself. He's continues to work hard and to build himself into a division I college pitcher, which is very difficult to do."
Krittenbrink patiently awaited his opportunity to play. February, March and much of April had passed, but he stayed focused and continued to work hard.
Finally, on April 22, hours before the team was set to host Alabama State, Coach Golloway announced Krittenbrink would lead open for the Sooners on the mound.
"We were going to need a fifth starter, which we really hadn't used that much," Golloway said. "He had thrown well in practices and in his bullpens. I knew that he was one of the favorites on the team, and I knew the team would play hard behind him. Sure enough, when I named him the starter that day, there was a lot of smiles."
Krittenbrink texted his dad with the exciting news. His dad was in church, but in a case a pure happenstance, had his cellphone on him. He excused himself from the service, and headed to Norman.
"I was in church," Krittenbrink's dad said. "I never take my cell phone in church, and for some reason I did that morning. If I wouldn't have, I would have missed the first two innings of the ball game."
He and others arrived as the national anthem was being sung.
His debut exceeded expectations. Krittenbrink threw 7 and 2/3 scoreless innings. As his relief came, he was given an ovation.
"After the game," Krittenbrink said, "the fans clapping for me, that made it all worth it."
It was a proud moment for his father as well.
"On my way over, I was just hoping he could get two or three innings," Krittenbrink's dad said. "Everything after that was pretty sweet."
It was only one game, but no one doubts Krittenbrink is finished there. He has shown mental toughness and determination through everything so far, baseball will be no different.