Gators Rally After Tough Year; On Track for JUCO World Series


Rob Vanya/San Jacinto College Marketing, PR and Government Affairs Department

23-ranked Gators pose for a team photo. As of press time, the Gators sport a 24-13 record.

Morale was low when San Jacinto College’s nationally renowned baseball team, the Gators, ended their season early last year by ranking third in the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletics Association) regional conference. The boys shoulder the weight of the team’s past success, which traditionally means breezing through the conference before placing in the Junior College World Series, so an early loss was disheartening.

“Certainly we set our goals high to win our conference and then win their regional and move onto the World Series, and so it can be disappointing to these young men,” head coach, and North campus’s Director of Athletics, Tom Arrington said. “There is a big drive and influence behind them to push them and then when they don’t meet that standard, they feel like failures at times.”

Coach Arrington, or TA as he likes to be called, is unable to attribute last year’s losses to one particular shortcoming.

“You know it’s funny. Sometimes you can relate it to injuries, or just other teams were better. Maybe we were in a slump at that time,” he said, “and I think it’s kind of a culmination of all those.”

However, the Coach has little experience explaining losses when it comes to the Gators, and it looks like this season will be no exception.

“I wanna say this is my fifteenth year, so I’ve been here a while. And traditionally the team has been known as one of the best junior college baseball programs in the country,” Arrington said. “This year is more typical, which means we are first in our conference right now. It seems as though we’re really at the top of our game.”

The Gators enjoy a history of success, ranking as high as second in the nation at one point. The team competed in the World Series eight times during Arrington’s career as the head coach, and multiple players moved on to Major League Baseball.

“I think it’s less than two percent of college players today who make it to professional baseball. Last year, we had six players drafted out of 35. We’re way ahead of that standard,” he said.

Notable San Jac players include Matt Albers and Jesse Crain who are currently with the Chicago White Sox; Brandon Belt and Brandon Hicks with the San Francisco Giants; and “of course, our famous people are Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte,” Arrington said.

Currently, the team consists of 38 players from as close as Houston and as far as Canada. Left-handed Pitcher Austin Johnson is a second-year Gator and comes to San Jac locally from Kingwood High School.

“I have played baseball ever since I was four-years-old and played all four years in high school as well, “Johnson said. “I love the competition that baseball provides because you are playing so many different games against so many different teams; so each one provides a unique sense of competition.”

Arrington said he maintains a personal relationship with Johnson off the field, as a neighbor and family friend.

“He’s special because I’ve seen him more than just around here. I see him around his family,” Arrington said. “He’s performed very well and he’s a bright student. I know he has other aspirations, too, besides baseball; he’s really on track for doing something good.”

Arrington said he and the team’s five assistant coaches focus on helping their players build a bright future.

“We’re just very happy that, not only do we have a successful program, but (the players) are able to move on,” he said. “As coaches our primary emphasis is to help them achieve whatever they want and to move them onto something better in life.”

While Johnson and Arrington are both extremely optimistic about this season, they admit their biggest rival is Alvin Junior College, who is currently right behind San Jac in the NJCAA Regional conference. “They always battle hard,” Johnson said.

If all goes as planned, the Gators will continue their season through the end of May at the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.

“The San Jac team is doing really good this year,” Johnson said. “We have been playing extremely well and I honestly believe that we have a great shot at making the tournament in (Grand) Junction as well as winning the tournament and bringing another trophy home.”

Further information regarding Gator’s baseball and the 2015 schedule, can be found at or