Family affair: Popescu brothers play at JUCO
Scott the latest Popescu brother to play in JUCO World Series
The family trifecta will have to wait another year.
The Popescu family of Flower Mound, Texas, has its share of JUCO hardware, with the two oldest brothers, Nick and Ryan, winning championships at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The youngest brother, Scott, was hoping to join them this year, but Midland’s 7-6 loss in 10 innings to Palm Beach State (Fla.) College on Tuesday ended that dream.
“I’m the last one,” the freshman third baseman said after the Chaparrals’ opening-round win. “Yeah, I’d say a little (pressure to join his brothers as a national champion).”
Nick played for Howard (Texas) College when the Hawks won the 2009 JUCO title, and he played a key role in the title game. He singled in the 10th inning and scored the second run of the inning to give the Hawks a 6-4 lead on their way to a 7-4 victory over Santa Fe (Fla.) College to cap an incredible 63-1 season.
“I watched my older brother,” Scott said. “I came out here with Howard, that was the season they were 63-1, so I came out and watched them play. That was a special season for them. It’s crazy, then my middle brother came out, and now I’m here. It’s nuts.”
Ryan Popescu made two trips to Grand Junction with Iowa Western Community College and was on the team that won the 2012 title. He played much of the season, but a bout with mononucleosis late last season kept him off the Reivers’ official tournament roster.
“We’re thrilled,” said Tom Popescu, the boys’ father. “It would be awesome for all three boys to have a championship. If you walk into my garage, it’s a weight room, a locker room is more like it. We have a picture of Nick playing for Howard (in JUCO) and a nice one of Ryan with Iowa Western. We want to have one with Scott in the locker room for the kids. It’s really exciting.”
Tom was so certain Midland would win the Southwestern District, he bought a plane ticket to Colorado before the district tournament began, just as he did with his older sons.
The boys’ mother, Tracy, is home in Flower Mound, watching games nervously online. Tom is in Grand Junction for the fourth time in five years — and he could make it five in six years should Midland have another stellar year in 2014.
As a teenager in the stands watching Howard’s magical ride, Scott Popescu wasn’t really thinking about getting his shot a few years in the future.
“I was probably 14 when I was here,” he said. “Never thought I’d be here. It’s an awesome experience. I didn’t even know what was going on. I’m glad I chose Midland and I’m glad my brothers support me and show me how it is, show me the way.”
A backup third baseman, Scott Popescu’s biggest role this year has been as a pinch hitter. He played in 18 games prior to the World Series, getting 15 hits in 48 at-bats with 12 RBI and nine runs scored. He made one plate appearance and went 0 for 1 in the Chaps’ three games at the JUCO World Series.
“He’s been a big-time productive bat off the bench,” Midland coach David Coleman said. “He can really hit. He has such a calm demeanor that he doesn’t panic. No situation is going to overwhelm him. You’re going to get a solid at-bat from him, and to have that type of player on the bench is huge, someone who can play with poise.”
Coleman laughs that two Popescu brothers got away, but he at least landed one.
“It’s a special time for his family,” Coleman said. “It’s just a great deal, to experience such a wonderful event three times with one family. I don’t know what the chances are on that, but I’d say they were pretty big (odds). I think it’s a neat deal.
“I saw his dad before the game and he said, ‘I’m so glad you got to experience this, this is wonderful.’ He says, ‘I love it here,’ and I said, ‘You know what? I think I do, too.’ I haven’t been here very long, but I think I do.”
Nine years ago, the Popescu family moved from the Chicago area to Texas, mainly to give the boys a better climate in which to play baseball. They considered Florida, Texas, Arizona and California; the boys chose Texas.
Scott, a straight-A student, has another year of junior college, and then could end up at Baylor, his father said, not only to play baseball, but for the education.
Ryan is at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, but played only 10 games this season because of a quadriceps injury. Nick was drafted by Atlanta, but is now out of baseball, selling medical supplies in the Dallas area, his father said.
Just as he did his previous three trips to Grand Junction, Tom Popescu never sits down during his son’s game. He stands at the gate down the left-field line where the players enter the field. It’s tradition, and superstition, he said.
He and Scott both hope next year, the Chaps can return to Grand Junction and help complete the family trifecta.
“They said it’s the best week of your life,” Scott said of what Ryan and Nick told him. “They treat you like a rock star, the baseball’s awesome, the fans here are the most fans you’ll see. It’s just an amazing experience.”