McDaniel an unlikely winner for Hogs
Travis McDaniel is a former Greenwood quarterback and University of Arkansas infielder who is remembered most for his lone college pitching performance.
It came in the SEC Tournament in 1999, when Arkansas was one win away from playing for the tournament championship. Arkansas reliever Jared Manatt hit the Auburn leadoff batter after the Tigers had scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-5 lead over the Razorbacks.
Arkansas pitching coach Tim Montez had seen enough and waved to the
bullpen for McDaniel, a junior who hadn’t pitched since high school at Greenwood.
“We were going to save our top two pitchers for the regional tournament and Montez asked before we left Fayetteville if any of us (position players)
had ever pitched,” said McDaniel, who played four years as a middle infielder for the Razorbacks. “I raised my hand then threw a bullpen session for Montez, so I guess I was it.”
McDaniel was far more than adequate. He threw four scoreless innings and earned the win as Arkansas rallied for a 9-6 victory. He allowed three hits, struck out four and walked two against an Auburn team that featured Gabe Gross, who played 10 years in the major leagues. Arkansas lost to Alabama 9-3 in the championship game and finished 4-2 in the SEC Tournament.
“My parents filmed the
game against Auburn where I pitched,” McDaniel said. “We still pop the video in on occasion, mostly for laughs. The announcers didn’t think I’d last long.”
McDaniel, 40, has lived for nearly a decade in Tampa Bay,
Fla., where he is the general manager at Anytime Fitness. But he still returns to Arkansas on occasion and cheers for the Razorbacks, along with the other Hogs faithful in Florida.
“You’d be surprised at the number of Arkansas fans down here, which we call the Devil’s Den,” McDaniel said. “We’ve had as many as 30 people at one time rooting for Arkansas when they’re on TV.”
McDaniel experienced plenty of success with Arkansas in 1999, when the Razorbacks were regular-season SEC champions and hosted an NCAA Regional Tournament at Baum Stadium for the first time. Arkansas opened the tournament with an 8-5 victory over Delaware, but its season ended the next day with a 9-8 defeat in 10 innings
to Missouri State and a 12-4 loss to Clemson.
Arkansas was one strike away from victory over Missouri State when Matt Cepicky hit a home run off Rodney Nye.
“That was like a shock to our system,” McDaniel said. “I was sick to my stomach that we got knocked out on the same day after he had such a great season.”
McDaniel’s senior year was a disappointment, as the Razorbacks tumbled to sixth place in the SEC West and missed the SEC Tournament in 2000.
“We lost a lot of top players to the draft off that ’99 team and couldn’t recover,” McDaniel said. “But I had a great time at Arkansas and I’m still friends with guys I played with. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
Arkansas’ Travis McDaniel (right) makes a throw to first base after recording a force out at second base against Kentucky on April 10, 1999, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Travis McDaniel (left) is the general manager at Anytime Fitness in Tampa Bay, Fla., where he also enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Allison Moredock.