Former UT ballplayer returns to Austin area

Christian Corona

Ten years ago, he came to Austin to begin what would be a superb college baseball career. Now, he’s back in Central Texas playing baseball again.

Omar Quintanilla, who helped Texas win the 2002 College World Series, currently plays shortstop for the nearby Round Rock Express. After spending five years in the Colorado Rockies organization, Quintanilla was signed last December by the Texas Rangers. They sent him to their Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, giving him the opportunity to play competitive baseball for an Austin area team for the first time in eight years.

“It’s awesome,” Quintanilla said. “I have a lot of memories right down the street. It’s good to back in Texas, with the warm weather. I’m back in my home state again and I’ve got friends and family here so it’s good.”

In his first series with the Express, Quintanilla was brilliant. He hit a walk-off single and went 2-for-4 in his Round Rock debut May 7, going 6-for-13 in his first three games. Quintanilla has since come back to Earth, hitting .235 since that opening series and .216 over his last 10 games. Despite his recent slump and the fact that the Rangers have a reliable shortstop in Elvis Andrus, there may still be a chance for Quintanilla to make Texas’ 40-man roster.

“It’s a tough process because there’s a lot of talented athletes out there,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.”

Until the Express’ most recent contest, a 6-3 loss to Albuquerque, they held the PCL South Division lead for the entirety of Quintanilla’s time with them. During Quintanilla’s time in Colorado, he spent most of his days with the Triple-A squad in Colorado Springs, but managed to get 500 at-bats with the big league club.

“It was a dream come true,” Quintanilla said. “Everything I worked for paid off.”

In Round Rock, Quintanilla and his teammates are enjoying a bit of success. The Express are on pace for the first winning season since 2006 and before Tuesday, the Express held at least a share of the division lead for 53 straight days. One of Quintanilla’s teammates, Taylor Teagarden, was also his teammate at Texas in 2003, when they were two of the Longhorns’ top five hitters.

“It’s good because we talk about the old-school days,” Quintanilla said. “But it’s good to have somebody that you know that you can talk about things from the past.”

Two of Quintanilla’s coaches, hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and third-base coach Spike Owen, also played for Texas. Both Coolbaugh and Owen played on CWS-participating teams, while Quintanilla, in 2002, and Teagarden, in 2005, won national championships.

“At that age, it was just like you watch on TV with major league World Series,” said Quintanilla, who went 4-for-5 against South Carolina in the title-clinching win nine years ago. “You win that and you want to do it at the next level. It makes you hungry for that.”