The title of this article is a clever play on words to a song Aggies all know, but the rest of this article is sincere and from the heart.
In 2014 I embarked on a journey out of the Midwest looking for a change of scenery and a new move in my career, winding up in College Station, Texas. In my two years in College Station, I never stepped foot on campus as a student, never earned a college credit, and never officially gained permission to say “whoop.” However, I did gain an appreciation for an institution, a community and a family often misunderstood from afar.
I graduated from Iowa State University in 2012, a fellow land-grant school and a former conference mate from the Aggies’ Big 12 days. The distance from one end of the Big 12 to the other meant I honestly didn’t know much about Texas A&M prior to arrival, only that the Cyclones had played the Aggies quite frequently until 2012, but my knowledge didn’t really extend much further. Little did I know that I would not only become quite knowledgeable of Texas A&M’s tradition, culture and community, but feel welcome as a member of that community.
My first sporting event while in College Station took place in Reed Arena on a “cold” January Saturday morning against the #1 rated Kentucky Wildcats. A lady grabbed onto me at the end of a very long song about the University of Texas and started swaying me back and forth. Lets just say I caught on quickly how to saw ’em off. I have enjoyed attending Texas A&M basketball (Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, and even Iowa State) and football games (Miss St, Alabama) quite frequently since that day at Reed Arena, and have made many friends who have made these gamedays even more enjoyable, most notably seeing College Gameday in Spence Park prior to best football atmosphere I’ve ever experienced: Texas A&M vs Tennessee this past fall.
Although football and basketball games have been incredibly fun, my true home in College Station lies across the tracks from Kyle Field in the friendly confines of Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. Having never really followed or appreciated college baseball in the past, Texas A&M baseball provided me a very new sports experience in my life, but more importantly, provided me a second family in Texas. Through attending roughly 65+ Aggie baseball games over the last
three seasons, I have developed deeply-rooted friendships which will last long beyond my departure from College Station. The fun times (and great wins) with Sections 202 and 203 have provided me great enjoyment, and an attachment to a great college baseball program that will also last beyond my departure. It is here, at Olsen Field, where complete strangers two short years ago welcomed me into their lives, their homes, their roadtrips and their tailgates, and allowed me to be part of Olsen Magic.
I’ve seen the true spirit of Texas A&M live through Aggie baseball’s adoption of my good friend JJ, who I also now call my adopted brother. Since the mid 2000s, Coach Childress and countless A&M players (including LA Dodger Ross Stripling and St Louis Cardinal Michael Wacha) have taken batting practice with JJ, making him a member of the team, and more importantly, making him their friend. Most schools wouldn’t allow this type of fan interaction, citing safety liabilities or distraction from the game, but Coach Childress and countless Aggie players since have bucked that trend and created their biggest fan and supporter in return. The opportunities they’ve given him are remarkable.
The greatest example of the spirit of Aggieland that I have seen in my time here came as Stripling faced Wacha in a Dodgers/Cardinals matchup in 2016 in Los Angeles. Following the win, Ross Stripling sent my pal JJ a game ball (Ross’s first win in the major leagues) congratulating JJ’s own personal accomplishments, and commemorating their friendship developed years prior at Olsen Field. This type of love and support, even four years after Ross played at A&M, encapsulates why Aggie Baseball is truly special.
Many other special places in Bryan/College Station have also provided a sense of home and comfort within the community. Many of them are “hole-in-the-wall” food joints north of the Bryan-College Station line, including Jesse’s Taqueria, Frittella’s, RxPizza, and Lamar & Niki’s Soul Food Kitchen. In College Station, I’ve had the privilege of spending many nights on the patio at West End Elixr Company, an establishment which actively supports our military and veterans, and is owned by a veteran himself. I’ve also been known to frequent the Dixie Chicken on many hot summer “Sunday Fundays” when the temperature outside was 95+ but the Chicken was at a cool 70 degrees and the beer was even cooler. The Dixie Chicken is a must-stop for any college sports enthusiast around the world. I hope all Aggies (and non-Aggies) support these fine local businesses who put their heart and soul into Aggieland and their people daily.
As I depart Aggieland, I send deep appreciation to my Texas A&M family, who welcomed me with open arms, and who will remain close following my departure. I gave my 100% to this community professionally, and developed a fantastic family that will live on for decades. From Olsen Field to the Dixie Chicken, I will cherish my short time in College Station, the people I have met, and the places I have been within the community. When I entered in 2014, I was warned: “there’s a spirit can ne’er be told,” and I can happily say I have experienced it, I respect it, and will forever have tremendous admiration for the people and values of Texas A&M.