NORMAN — Nineteen years ago, Javier Flores was a wide-eyed, talented freshman out of Broken Arrow, Okla., beginning his rookie campaign as the backup to All-American Rich Hills at shortstop for the University of Oklahoma baseball program. By season's end at the 1994 NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb., he was OU's starting catcher and chased down a swinging bunt by Georgia Tech star backstop and future MLB All-Star Jason Varitek, firing a throw down to first base to clinch the program's second national title.
The 2013 Sooners, who feature 12 freshmen, are hoping to capture some of that '94 magic, as the program honored the career of Flores (1994-97) and celebrated the start of a new season Saturday at the 10th Annual Diamond Dinner, held at the Embassy Suites.
"The banquet is always a great time of year," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "There's always going to be a lot of excitement from the players and the coaches, but when we see that energy translated over to our fans, our families and so many of our boosters that have followed our program, that's really exciting to me."
OU officially lifted the lid off of the 2013 campaign Friday as team practice opened with an intersquad scrimmage at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Oklahoma begins the season with a four-game home set against Hofstra Feb. 15-17. Fans can purchase tickets online on SoonerSports.com or by calling the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 456-GoOU.
Flores, a three-time All-American, is the 17th former Sooner to be recognized at the banquet, which started in 2004.
"It's special coming back to OU, a university I love so much" said Flores. "Being honored like this in front of the team and my family, it means a lot."