Road Trip: College Station, Texas
Welcome to the best college baseball venue in the country, where aspiring big leaguers hope to go from "rags" to riches
By Troy Miller
Located so deep in the heart of Texas that it may as well be the Lone Star State's mitral valve is College Station, home of Texas A&M. More than two thirds of the town's population of 67,890 is made up of A&M students, or Aggies, and when it comes to heart, few student bodies, if any, have more than they do.
The Aggies are nationally renowned for their pigskin passion, for such traditions as Midnight Yell Practice and the 12th Man. Where else do people assemble at midnight to scream themselves hoarse with absolutely no hope of spotting Dick Clark? But that's what you'll see if you attend Yell Practice, which draws 25,000-plus to Kyle Field on the eve of a football game. "Texas A&M," says former Arkansas and current Rice coach Ken Hatfield, "is the toughest place I have ever had to coach."
Football is more popular than brisket here, yet few outside of Aggieland know that College Station is also one of the most dreaded places for opponents to play in all of college baseball. On their home diamond, C.E. (Pat) Olsen Field, the Aggies are bolstered by a rowdy student section of 4,000 or so fans who position themselves above the visitors' dugout and are known as RAggies.
The name stems from the chants, or rags, that are used to relentlessly torment visiting teams. "Pinch his butt," for example, is yelled when the visiting coach makes a trip to the pitcher's mound. That is often followed by "tease," should the coach fail to follow through on the RAggies' dare.
Even quiet moments are ripe for rags. If the opposing team's first base coach stands outside of the coaching box, he'll be hearing "Get in the box" in his sleep. Of course, should he comply with that request, he will be showered with "Get out of the box." RAggie culture is not about being fair, after all.
A&M senior pitcher Justin Moore knows all about the RAggies. He was raised in a family of Aggies and sat in the student section as a youngster before coming to Aggieland to play baseball. "I like the rag when a guy hits the ball off his foot and they say 'Ow' every time he takes a step," Moore says. "My favorites are some of the original ones, where they come up with something from a guy's name, and they rag him about it the whole weekend."
Out past the leftfield wall is another popular student section, Aggie Alley, which is nothing more than a parking lot between Olsen Field and the Student Recreation Center. Students apply each winter to obtain a $50 parking spot there. The lucky lottery winners host barbecues and hold parties from the beds of pickup trucks or scaffolds built onto their cars, all the while ragging the opposing team's leftfielder.
Aggie Alley once was free and overflowed with raucous RAggies. The ragging is a little toned down there now that the number of students has dropped. The RAggies in the stands, however, continue to prove that Olsen Field is one of the true must-visit places in college baseball -- unless your seats are in the visitors' dugout.
"When we play at places like Texas, they have a lot of fans, but it's mostly older people or alumni," Moore says. "They're not really into the game; they're just kind of watching. It's nothing like [Olsen Field]. We don't play anywhere in the country that has fans like we do."
Issue date: April 8, 2004