Two years after Soccoro High School shortstop Omar Quintanilla signed up to play for Texas, Creekview High School catcher Taylor Teagarden did the same. They’ve been following each other around ever since.
Both won national titles during their respective three-year stints with the Longhorns before moving on to the big leagues. Five years after Teagarden was drafted in the third round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Rangers, the same organization picked up Quintanilla, then a free agent, two days before Christmas and less than five months after being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
They played together a bit with the Rangers and Round Rock Express, their Triple-A affiliate. Teagarden was traded to the Orioles last December, seven months before Quintanilla, then with the Mets, was traded to the Orioles as well.
“It’s been a little crazy since college,” Quintanilla said. “I knew Teagarden was a good player, and I’ve been lucky enough to play with him in the big leagues with the Rangers and now here with the Orioles. What a coincidence.”
Teagarden batted .220 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs in 118 games over four seasons with the Rangers while Quintanilla recorded just one hit, a triple and 22 at-bats during his only season with them. They both spent most of the 2011 season with Round Rock, each hitting close to .300 for the Express. Quintanilla, now an everyday shortstop, and Teagarden, Matt Weiters’ backup behind the plate, were among several players to play with the Rangers last season and the Orioles this year, including Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day.
“I played just a little bit with Omar last year,” Teagarden said. “It’s just nice to see him, because I tried to keep up with him ever since he got drafted. It’s just nice for us to be in the big leagues, and it’s kind of unique that we’re on the same team.”
The 2003 Longhorns squad that Quintanilla and Teagarden both played for won 50 games and earned the program’s NCAA-record 29th trip to the College World Series before falling to Rice twice in Omaha. But Quintanilla batted .329 with while driving in 32 runs and scoring 41 in 2002, the year Texas won a national championship, while Teagarden hit .333 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs three seasons later, when the Longhorns won it all.
With the Orioles, Quintanilla is hitting a career-best .261 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 28 games while Teagarden has just five hits in 38 at-bats over 14 contests, although one of them was a game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning of a 1-0 victory over the Rays earlier this month. Last night he went 2-for-3 with a home run in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the White Sox.
Winning a World Series is certainly a more daunting task than capturing a College World Series crown, but knowing what it takes to win a national title could prove valuable on a team that could make its first postseason appearance since 1996.
“In college, you can have a couple dominant pitchers,” Teagarden said. “In the big leagues, it’s a different atmosphere. There’s a lot more obstacles to surpass. You’ve got to play four long series.”
If the regular season ended today, the Orioles would earn one of the two American League Wild Card berths, along with the As.
“It’s more exciting when you’re playing for something,” Quintanilla said. “At Texas, [head baseball coach Augie] Garrido showed us a lot about teamwork and what it takes to win at that level ... Being the best in college was my goal for a long time. Now that I’m here, my goal is to get a ring.”