By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
In a week that brought dizzying success to the UCLA Bruins baseball team, one brief, stunning moment may be among the longest lasting.
Gathered for a team photo in the home team dugout at Dodger Stadium before the June 27 game, the 2013 NCAA champions were caught by surprise when the Dodgers’ exciting new phenom, Yasiel Puig, leaped into the group. And just as quickly, he darted away.
“That was amazing,” said Bruins freshman infielder Brett Urabe. “We didn’t know what to say, it happened so quickly.”
The UCLA club was on hand to be celebrated for winning their first-ever national championship in baseball – a title that has eluded them despite holding an NCAA record 108 championships in other sports.
The Bruins were an unlikely winner of the College World Series, defeating heavy-hitting teams with solid pitching and stingy defense throughout the tournament.
Urabe, who played baseball all four years at Huntington Beach High School, has had limited playing as a frosh at UCLA, but certainly made the most of his opportunities. His lone hit during the season, according to statistics on the Bruins website, was a home run. His one plate appearance in the College World Series ended with a five-pitch walk.
Urabe said the mood in dugout at the tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, was almost indescribable. “The energy was awesome, just electric. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a great buzz in the atmosphere.”
Certainly a banner start for Urabe, just a year out of high school.
“It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t ask for a better start to my college career,” Urabe beamed. “That why I came to UCLA, honestly, because the program has such a good history.”
Urabe’s father, Phil, who played at Fresno State and some minor-league ball, said that his son showed a talent for baseball early on.
“As a little kid, even in tee-ball, he showed great athletic ability. The key is, he’s had a passion for this game,” he said.
After the family traveled to Omaha to witness the championship, the elder Urabe said all that has happened in the last week has been pretty hard to fathom.
“Being here on the field at Dodgers is surreal, it’s all happened so quick. It’s been magical,” he said.
Obviously, the success hasn’t come easily. The demands of balancing team and schoolwork have been a formidable challenge. Brett had thought about pre-med as a major, but soon realized the time demands would be very difficult.
His father said he’s sure Brett may have thought a few times about playing pro ball someday, but for now, that subject isn’t really part of the conversation.
“I’m sure he’d like to do that, but we’ll see what happens. Now, he’ll just do the best he can to enjoy where he is at the moment.”