Baseball players cross paths throughout their professional career all the time, but the San Diego Padres have quite a few players who faced off before they entered the pro ranks. In fact, three Padres players, as well as a manager in their Minor League system, faced off consistently in what was then the Pac-10 Conference in the early 2000s.
Outfielder Carlos Quentin patrolled the outfield for the Stanford Cardinal from 2001-03, where he was selected to the All-Pac-10 team every year he played for the Cardinal. Catcher Nick Hundley played for the University of Arizona from 2003-05, where he was an All-Pac-10 selection and a Johnny Bench Award finalist in 2005. Outfielder Travis Buck earned two All-Pac-10 selections from 2003-05 at Arizona State. Buck played for Pat Murphy, the Arizona State baseball coach from 1995 to 2009 who is now the manager of San Diego's Triple-A affiliate.
All four made it to the College World Series during their tenures in the Pac-10. Hundley led the Wildcats past a very talented Long Beach State Dirtbags team that featured current Major Leaguers Troy Tulowitzki, Jered Weaver, Cesar Ramos and Jason Vargas to advance to Omaha. Hundley actually hit the walk-off sacrifice fly to beat the Dirtbags and advance the Wildcats to the College World Series in 2004.
"We definitely weren't supposed to beat Long Beach State, but we sucked it up and got it done," Hundley said. "The fans and people there make the experience. Playing in front of 25,000 people there and people throwing parades for you and treating you like you're a big leaguer when you're in college is great."
Murphy and Buck represented the Pac-10 in the College World Series the following year and beat an Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain-led Nebraska team to place third in the tournament.
Quentin went to Omaha all three years he attended Stanford, and he hit .396 in his final season, all while battling an elbow injury that required him to get Tommy John surgery once he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I haven't answered any questions about my elbow in a long time," laughed Quentin, who has battled knee and hand injuries in his professional career. "At the time, I had hurt my elbow early in the season, like the second series of the year. I decided I wanted to keep playing. We had a great team that was coming back. I wanted to be a part of it. I was going to be hitting in the middle of the lineup. Also, I was on track to get drafted, so I didn't want to mess up that path that was laid out in front of me."
Quentin faced off in the 2002 College World Series against now-Padres closer, and eventual College World Series champion, Huston Street, who like Quentin, went to Omaha three times. Street was the closer for the Texas Longhorns from 2002-04.
Despite Street winning the College World Series in 2002, he thinks the experience of Omaha alone helped him develop for the big league level.
"The Minor League level doesn't, I don't think, put you in situations of that magnitude where this pitch means everything for your team, for you. If you're able to recognize it's going to resonate for the rest of your life in some way, shape or form," he said. "The road to Omaha, playing in a Regional, playing in a Super Regional, playing the season to get a good seed, those are all important steps in the maturation process of a young kid, especially a kid in college who's trying to go to the next level to play baseball."
While players can look back fondly of their success collegiately, they can now enjoy having once-hated rivals as teammates.
"It's good to finally get a chance to play with [Hundley] years down the line when we had so many tough college games against each other," Buck said. "It was building up in that rivalry. It was nothing personal with the players, it was more of an ASU vs. U of A [situation] in that sense."
Players like Buck, Hundley and Quentin, who once fought each other for conference championships, are now uniting together to argue for their conference's reputation.
"At this point, it's more of a united Pac-10 -- Pac-12 now -- front against other conferences," Quentin said. "So what happens is instead of you quarreling amongst yourselves as to whose team was better, you start saying, 'All the teams were great in our conference and that other conference isn't any good.'"
Jordan Hamm is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less