As UA's Robert Refsnyder thrives in Omaha, proud parents are there every step of the way -- as always.
By STEVE RIVERAFS Arizona
In about 120 games over three seasons, Arizona outfielder Robert Refsnyder has taken his parents on a sports journey only loved ones could appreciate.
Baseball games galore. And yes, there are more to come. Jane and Clint Refsnyder don’t mind. They’re enjoying the trip and what has turned into a wild and memorable ride.
"We won the Pac-12, we won the regional and now we are in Omaha for the championship," Jane Refsnyder said over the phone from the College World Series. "That’s just amazing. Wow."
What a ride it’s been -- for nearly 21 years.
It’s been sports, sports and more sports -- or at least has felt that way -- for the Refsnyder family since they officially adopted their son, then a 3-month-old from Seoul, Korea.
Clint said his son, the Wildcats' starting right fielder and arguably one of their best hitters, showed promise and potential as a 5-year-old when he'd emulate athletes on television.
"If they would throw a football, he’d pretend to be throwing one," Clint said. "If someone was batting, he’d bat, too."
He hasn’t stop hitting since, helping lead Arizona (46-17) to the College World Series finals beginning Sunday against defending champion South Carolina. For the season, he’s hitting .357 with 63 runs scored (second on the team) and 64 RBIs (best on the team).
"I feel good; I’ve been hitting all year," said Refsnyder.
He goes into Sunday’s game hitting a team-high-tying .400 for the Series with a team-high nine total bases. Four of those bases came on a towering home run over the left-field fence in Arizona’s romp over Florida State to advance to the finals.
"A home run is a home run, but it was nice (and) special," Refsnyder said. "A home run is always a big moment, but you just want to win."
That’s what Arizona has been doing, winning nine straight in postseason play and 10 of 11 overall. It’s no shock that Refsnyder has been a big part of UA’s amazing run. Eleven games ago, he ran through third-base coach Matt Siegel’s stop sign to score the winning run on a Seth Mejias-Brean double in a 1-0 game against rival Arizona State.
"All I saw was (the coach) putting on the stop sign and this crazy kid not stopping," his father said, joking. "Had everything played properly, he would have been out."
But the baseball gods had other plans. Refsnyder scored and made probably the biggest baseball fan in the family more than ecstatic. Jane said she "lost five pounds" on the play alone, yelling and screaming her son home.
"When he was going from second to third, he had this madman look," she said. "I had this mental flashback when he was in sixth grade and it was field-day competition and it was the fastest girl and boy, and he had never lost. I saw that same look on his face, like, 'I’m not going to lose this.' I saw him run and said, 'My god, he’s going to go for this.'"
Arizona has lost just once since.
And the Refsnyders, from Laguna Hills, Calif., have seen every game since. They’ve seen most of them over the years, watching their son start nearly every game, whether it be in right field or at second base or at designated hitter. He’s that valuable at every spot. He’s only missed two starts in 173 games.
When she’s in the stands, Jane is a busy woman, keeping a scorebook for every game. And that’s all the hits, runs and errors, not just Robert's.
"It’s the way I stay into the game," said Jane, a self-proclaimed baseball nut. "Who is coming up and how we’d pitch to them. And the fathers of the pitchers always ask me what’s the pitch count."
Jane wouldn’t have it any other way. Baseball and softball, although she didn’t play organized sports as a youth, have long been in her blood. She kept score at the games for her daughter, Elizabeth, who's also an adopted Korean and played D-III softball at Kenyon College.
Even after watching three games on television over the course of a day, if there’s an opportunity to watch a movie at night, much to Clint’s chagrin, Jane will pick baseball again.
Clint loves baseball, but Jane REALLY loves it.
"Jokingly I say this, and I’ve also apologized to the man upstairs," Jane said. "If there is no ballfield in heaven, I don’t want to go. I always have a score book, and I’d rather watch the ballgame rather than anything else."
There have been no lightning strikes from above yet.
When Refsnyder was drafted in the fifth round by the
New York Yankees earlier this month, Clint was as thrilled as any father would be for his son. There was a downside, though, in the acknowledgment that at least part of him would have to become a Yankees fan.
Clint grew up in Allentown, Pa., and is a
"It’s really cool," Clint said of his son’s draft status. "I put the Yankee jersey on a little gingerly at first, being from Philly and New York being the evil place that it is (he laughed). But seriously, it’s a first-class organization. What else can you ask for but being drafted by the class of the league?"
Then he continued: "I’m over it. I’m still a Philly fan."
And they will always be Wildcats fans, specifically this weekend as they complete a long journey filled with frequent-flyer miles and many, many miles on the road to watch their son and his teammates attempt to fulfill their dream.
"Oh my," Jane said, reflecting on the entire experience. "I said to Mr. Farris (UA pitcher James' dad) that I’m afraid I’m going to wake up from this great dream. He said, 'Stay asleep.' ... Every time I think about (all this), I say, 'Oh my gosh.'"