On a night the Fresno Grizzlies paid tribute to Jerry Tarkanian and invited the Fresno State basketball team to join in the celebration, the Triple-A franchise also could have paid homage to the university’s 2008 College World Series championship.
Former Fresno State star Danny Muno started at third base for the visiting Las Vegas 51s on Friday night.
Alex White, who pitched against Fresno State while with North Carolina, watched from the Fresno dugout as he prepared to start today.
And former Georgia closer Josh Fields, who faced the Bulldogs during the CWS championship series, was en route to Fresno from major league parent Houston to begin a rehab assignment.
“I feel like it was just yesterday,” Muno said. “It was a great group of guys coming together at the right time to capture something special and do something that no other team in college history had ever done.”
To commemorate Tark night, two months after the legendary college basketball coach died at age 84, the Grizzlies wore white and red jerseys with “Bulldogs” across the chest. The 51s had red and white “Rebels” jerseys to honor Tark’s time with UNLV.
Muno smiled after seeing the home jerseys, though as a visitor he had to wear a Rebels model.
“Brings back a lot of good memories,” Muno said of seeing a near-replica of the school’s jersey.
During Muno’s freshman season, Fresno State earned a No. 4 seed for an NCAA Regional — the equivalent of somewhere in the teens in the NCAA basketball field.
But the Bulldogs captured an improbable national title, upsetting some of college baseball’s top programs.
Among them was White’s North Carolina team. Then a sophomore who threw in the mid-90s, he was named to the All-CWS team after tying an NCAA record with three wins in a single World Series. White blanked Fresno State over 22/3 innings with five strikeouts as the Tarheels won 4-3 to force a final semifinal game against Fresno State.
But the Bulldogs went on to beat Tarheels 6-1 in the following game to advance to the championship series. Muno batted leadoff and finished 1 for 4 with an RBI. White, gassed, gave up two runs in 12/3 innings in relief.
“You couldn’t have kept me out of that game,” White said. “I was trying to get us to that championship. I don’t remember any specific guys from that Fresno team, but that was a good Fresno club.
“It was a great experience overall, one of the better moments of baseball for me.”
Fresno State then faced Georgia and Fields. Georgia won the first game 7-6 with Fields earning a save. Fresno State erupted in Game 2, with Muno going 3 for 4 with four runs and two RBIs in a 19-10 win.
In the final, Fresno State prevailed 6-1.
“It was bittersweet to start here,” said Muno, who was in contention for an opening day roster spot with the New York Mets, Las Vegas’ parent club. “I wanted to start in the majors. I got sent to Fresno.
“I had a great time here. Makes me revisit memory lane. That’s always fun.”