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Kansas City Royals' Pitcher Brandon Finnegan's Unreal Journey To The World Series

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Greg Echlin
/
KCUR

The College World Series will be underway this weekend in Omaha. That is where Brandon Finnegan, the Kansas City Royals' top draft choice last year, started a historical run.   

 

He became the first player in baseball history to play in the College World Series and Major League Baseball’s World Series in the same year.

Finnegan will be back in Omaha on Monday, but under different circumstances. He’s been up and down between the Royals and their minor league teams this year. Currently, Finnegan is with the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Royals Triple-A affiliate, and he might be back in the majors later this season.

In Omaha last year, Finnegan pitched for Texas Christian University in the College World Series. Finnegan remembered being taken by the College World Series’ carnival atmosphere.

“It was just unreal, the life around it. There’s tons of places to eat. Tents everywhere. Tons of people,” recalled Finnegan. “It was sold out every game that TCU played.”

Finnegan also recalled the momentum that TCU carried into the College World Series.

We just went on a big roll. I think we went on a nine-game winning streak, lost one, then went on an eight-game winning streak,” he said. “We were just rolling.”

Despite Finnegan’s strong performance on the mound, the Horned Frogs were eliminated two days later against Ole Miss.

We ended up losing and getting put out. I thought that was the worst thing to happen to me in baseball,” he said. “It wasn’t embarrassing. It was just sad because I knew that my career at TCU was over.”

But in one sense, Finnegan’s real accomplishment was still ahead of him. Ten days after TCU's season ended, Finnegan joined the Royals' Class A affiliate in Wilmington, Delaware. A month after that, he moved to Northwest Arkansas, where the Royals have their Double-A team, and a month after that, as the Double-A season was coming to an end, Finnegan got called into his manager's office again.

“The day before the season ended at Double-A, I got called into the manager’s (Vance Wilson) office,” Finnegan said. “He said, ‘You’re not going home. You’re going to the big leagues kid. You just got called up.’”

The Royals were in the middle of a pennant race and needed some pitching help. Finnegan went from starter to reliever and became a key contributor to the Royals’ 2014 playoff run.

“We just went on a roll. We won eight games straight in the postseason, and it was just crazy,” he said. “The fans were awesome, the town was awesome.”

Then on Oct. 25 — after just seven weeks as a major league pitcher — Brandon Finnegan made history when he entered Game 3 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. 

TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos, who pitched in the big leagues from 2002 to 2008, said he couldn't believe what he was seeing when Finnegan took the mound in seventh inning.

“Just a couple months prior he was in our dugout,” Saarloos said. “Now, watching him on TV against the best in the world, I think I was more proud of him that day than I was for my big league debut.”

For his part, Finnegan is humble and a little sheepish about his accomplishment.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet. Thank God, because I think if it did I don’t know what it would do to my head,” said Finnegan with a laugh. “I ended up having a really good 2014 year, and they took my hat to the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

When the Storm Chasers return to Omaha Monday, Finnegan will have a chance to visit his ex-teammates from TCU since the Horned Frogs made it to the College World Series again this year.

In the meantime, Finnegan hopes to make it back to the big leagues in time to help the Royals on another postseason run.

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