Friedman, Cressend, Gomes, Johns, Loup bring Tulane bond into Dodgers-Rays World Series
When the 2020 World Series begins Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas, there will be a huge rooting interest locally for all associated with Tulane University and Green Wave baseball.
Five significant ties to the Green Wave and the great program of Rick Jones are prominently involved with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays.
Both the Rays and Dodgers survived grueling, seven-game series fights which went to the limit.
Incidentally, with all due respect to the Houston Astros, baseball should be very grateful and should be breathing a sigh of relief that the Astros did not make The Fall Classic. That thought process has nothing to do with the embarrassment the Astros incurred and caused to the game through the concept of blatant cheating and having the audacity to get caught.
It would have been a travesty and a colossal embarrassment to the game and its great history that a team with a losing record in the regular season reached the World Series as a direct result of cheapening the playoffs by expanding it to look like the NBA or NHL.
The beauty of baseball is that no sport does a better job of determining its best teams and its champions, due to a grueling 162-game schedule and a playoff system with just 10 playoff teams out of 30 participants.
The Dodgers will effectively have a pseudo home field advantage, of sorts, having just played a 7-game series against the Braves at the brand new Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Los Angeles had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to beat the talented Atlanta Braves.
Tampa Bay had to avoid a potential monumental collapse to beat the Astros, taking a 3-0 lead before Houston won the next three games to force a deciding game.
Now, the cross-country matchup will convene with the eyes of Texas upon both teams.
Isn’t it a pleasant sight to see fans at the games in Arlington?
The players clearly have fed off of that energy.
The energy of New Orleans will be clearly felt on both sides of the matchup, thanks to a coach in Rick Jones who brought four players to his program at Tulane and inherited another.
A New Orleans native, Jack Cressend owns the highly successful Louisiana Knights travel team franchise. Cressend was a standout pitcher for Mandeville (1990-93) and Tulane (1994-96) before spending part of five seasons in the major leagues with Minnesota and Cleveland, going 5-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 122 appearances.
Cressend also serves as a pitching crosschecker for the Dodgers, a position he has held since 2015.
Interestingly, Cressend was a scout for the Rays from 2006-08 and as a pitching consultant for Tampa Bay in 2013.
In between his stints with the Rays and Dodgers, Cressend was an assistant at Tulane under Rick Jones and then with the University of Houston.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Cressend said. “I still know a lot of the guys over in Tampa in their baseball operations department. It’s totally two different markets but it’s all coming out of Andrew Friedman’s tree, so to speak. With the Dodgers, we are set up to be very good for a long time.”
Cressend remembers his time with the Rays fondly.
“The draft was so important with the Rays, a small market team,” Cressend said. “We had to hit on our picks. There was a higher emphasis on the draft, developing the players from within versus being able to plug holes at the major league level which we can do in Los Angeles. It was fun to be a part of it. We have deep pockets in LA, to do what we can do in free agency and we have drafted and developed players very well.”
Jones inherited Cressend when he got the job at Tulane and he recruited Friedman to Tulane.
“In my debut, Cressend played centerfield and hit leadoff for us,” Jones said. “Of course, he became a great pitcher for us. He pitched a complete game shutout in the Conference USA championship, our first conference title.”
Andrew Friedman is the President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers, a position he has held since 2014.
Los Angeles hired him away from Tampa Bay, where Friedman served from 2004-14 as Director of Baseball Development before being promoted to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager.
Friedman guided the Rays to the World Series in 2008. He has now presided over a franchise in Los Angeles that is in the World Series for the third time in four years.
The tie that binds is that Friedman is a Tulane graduate. Friedman’s father, J. Kent Friedman, played baseball at Tulane.
Ironically, Friedman was recruited by Jones to play baseball for the Green Wave but fate intervened.
As a centerfielder, Friedman broke his hand when hit by a pitch during fall baseball before separating his left shoulder the following year.
Friedman went on to earn his undergraduate degree in management.
“Andrew played one fall for us,” Jones said. “He got hurt and told me he would not make it as a player and he became a great baseball administrator. He got his Tulane degree, a great degree, and made the very best of it. He had deep family ties to Tulane.”
Brandon Gomes is the Vice President and Assistant General Manager of the Dodgers under Friedman. Gomes was recruited by Jones to Tulane, where he was a standout.
Gomes pitched for the Rays from 2011-15.
“Brandon came to us from Massachusetts,” Jones said. “He was a great teammate. He was great for us and has really enjoyed a great career in professional baseball. He has been great, very loyal to me as Jack has. He has a terrific future in the majors as an executive. I am really proud of those two guys.”
Michael Johns is the minor league field coordinator for the Rays and he handled the taxi squad in the bubble for Tampa Bay this season, a tough job. Johns also played infield for Jones at Tulane in 1996 and 1997 before a three-year career playing in the minors. Johns also managed in the Rays minor league system before moving into his present position.
“Michael had such a tough job to do this year and there is no surprise that he did it incredibly well,” Jones said. “What a great accomplishment for he and the Rays. I am really proud of him.”
Aaron Loup is also in the World Series as a relief pitcher with the Rays. He pitched for Hahnville and Tulane and was also recruited to Tulane.
“Aaron had really good stuff when we signed him but his maturity level really grew after his freshman year with us,” Jones said. “He became a leader and a stalwart for us. To be in the big leagues so long and to get this chance in the World Series is tremendous. His delivery is so hard for hitters to pick up.”
Jones is beaming about all five of those with ties to his Tulane legacy.
“It is always good to see guys get a chance to do it at that level and succeed,” Jones said. “We have had a lot of guys go far in pro ball. If you are in a place where you can get really good players, that is what can happen. It truly makes you feel great to see them succeed at the highest level. It is great to see Andrew, Brandon, Jack and Aaron all in the World Series.”
Cressend paid homage to his legacy at Tulane with Jones.
“It all started for all of us at Tulane under Coach Jones with his leadership and guidance,” Cressend said. “To see what Andrew has been able to do in the baseball executive world is just incredible. Gomes is an assistant GM on his way to being a GM. It speaks to the volume of going to a place like Tulane where you were able to play high quality baseball while getting an outstanding degree.”
Jones always preached one message to his players when recruiting them.
“I told them it was not about the next four years but the next forty years,” Jones said. “It was about the education and being set up and being successful in life.”
Cressend echoed those sentiments.
“Coach Jones always reminded us about the four years versus the 40 years and he was right,” Cressend. “I always remember that and admire him for that approach. He’s an awesome guy. I’m fortunate to have played for him and coached under him. Tulane served us all well. The Green Wave are very well represented in the 2020 World Series.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…