Posted: Apr 21, 2020
By Jim Ecker
When Josh Fitzgerald was a kid growing up in Mason City, he rooted for Texas Christian University and had a sticker of his beloved Horned Frogs on his bedroom wall.
Not Iowa, not Iowa State, not Texas.
"I don't know," he confessed. "I just always had a thing for TCU."
And now TCU has a thing for Josh Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, a freshman outfielder at Kirkwood, accepted a scholarship from the Horned Frogs last November after catching their eye at a showcase in Indianapolis.
It must have been quite a showcase.
"I did all right," he said. "The first game, I just did OK. Then the second game I hit a single and a triple off the wall. I was happy after that."
Fitzgerald was walking into the cage for some batting practice after that when Kirkwood Coach Todd Rima told him an assistant coach from TCU wanted to talk to him. "I said to Coach Rima, 'Are you being serious or are you pulling my leg?'"
Rima was serious. Dream come true.
Iowa had offered Fitzgerald a scholarship when he was a junior at Mason City Newman, but he was not ready to accept and the Hawkeyes yanked the offer. TCU never contacted him in high school, but they obviously were impressed at that junior college showcase in Indianapolis.
A week later he talked on the phone with TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle, who offered a scholarship and invited him to visit their campus. Fitzgerald made the trip and loved the place.
And why not? He cheered for TCU as a kid and now was being offered a chance to play for the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Conference. College baseball is a big sport in Texas, with big crowds and beautiful stadiums.
"I committed the last night I was down there," he said.
That was in early November, and shortly later he signed a national letter of intent to join them for the 2020-21 school year.
Fitzgerald got off to a hot start for Kirkwood this season. He was hitting .500 with three homers and six RBIs in the first 12 games, with two doubles and three triples, although he got hit in the face by a fastball in the 12th game in Florida.
His next stop was the emergency room.
"I was bleeding everywhere," he said. "I might have had a concussion. I don't remember. I had two holes in my lip."
As it turned out, that was Kirkwood's final game of the season. The season was suspended at that point due to the coronavirus, and a few days later the rest of the season was canceled by the NJCAA.
A short time later, the NCAA announced that all seniors on college baseball teams would have the option of returning in 2021 because their final campaign was cut short. Some of TCU's top outfielders are upperclassmen, which could make it harder for Fitzgerald to crack the lineup if those older guys stick with the Horned Frogs.
"I was kind of concerned at first," he said.
Fitzgerald talked to Rima, a family friend from Rima's days as the college baseball coach at NIACC in Mason City. Rima coached Jack Fitzgerald, Josh's older brother, at Kirkwood and also coached Jack's travel team in Mason City.
"I've known Coach Rima my entire life," said Josh. "I love Coach Rima and our families are super close."
Fitzgerald asked Rima what he thought: Should he return to Kirkwood for his sophomore season in 2021 or head to TCU, not knowing what the future might bring. Rima encouraged Fitzgerald to stick with TCU.
"I listened to his advice," Fitzgerald said.
Texas Christian is sticking with Fitzgerald, and he's sticking with them. The offer stands, and so the kid who rooted for the Horned Frogs when he was growing up will be heading to Texas for big-time college baseball.