White House Summit Is a Home Run for the Titans : Sports: The College World Series winners from Cal State Fullerton earn a meeting with the President.


He sees them in the political opinion polls and, to his consternation, sees them lining up to take his job. But this was one troop from Republicanland that President Clinton was happy to see.

The 25 members of the College World Series baseball championship team, the Titans from Cal State Fullerton, received a tour of the White House on Friday, lining up to shake hands and get photographed with the President and hear his praise during a Rose Garden ceremony.

“You have been called college baseball’s ‘Dream Team,’ ” Clinton said, reciting statistics from the team’s winning streak that culminated in the College World Series title in June.


“A lot of your success, I’m sure, has the same roots as the remarkable success that we celebrated just a few days ago . . . when we saw [Baltimore Oriole] Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record,” Clinton added. “It really takes a commitment to hard work and dedication and teamwork and basically doing it every day.”

The ceremony was mostly about honoring the team. But the event’s political opportunity was not far from the President’s mind as he stood before about 50 mostly Republican visitors from the most Republican county in California, a state pundits say he must win to be reelected in 1996.

“Some of the less-schooled people here in the White House--when they heard that Cal State was coming today and it was about baseball--they thought that someone had given Cal Ripken a whole state.

“And when they said that, I said, ‘Well, I hope he’ll share it with me next year,’ ” Clinton joked.

It took a second, but the audience laughed. “Think about it,” said Clinton, who plans to visit Orange County next week.

Earlier, in the Oval Office, Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon gave Clinton a crystal replica of an elephant, the team’s mascot, with the inscription: “A friendly elephant from Orange County.”


In keeping with tradition, Titan coach Augie Garrido gave the President a baseball cap and a Titan baseball jersey with “Clinton” and “1” sewn on the back.

Even though ceremonies for championship sports teams have become almost routine at the White House, it was anything but ordinary for the players.

With his teammates standing on risers to one side of the President, outfielder Mark Kotsay of Santa Fe Springs stood nervously behind the podium and rattled off his thanks to Clinton. “I just think it’s . . . a great honor to be here today, and I know that for the rest of our lives we’ll all cherish this day.”

Titan catcher Brian Loyd of Yorba Linda said afterward he had always watched similar Rose Garden ceremonies on television and dreamed: “I want that to be me someday.”

Former second baseman Joe Fraser of Huntington Beach, who has signed with the Minnesota Twins, was still dazed by the President’s compliment of his necktie.

The baseball championship was the college’s third World Series title under Garrido, but this was the first time the team had been invited to the White House. The visit was arranged with the help of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), a 1977 Cal State Fullerton grad.


With so many key players returning this year, third baseman Tony Martinez did not want to speculate on the chances of returning to the White House next summer.

Standing on the front lawn of the White House, Martinez seemed to want to just savor the moment when Clinton called out his name.

“It’s an honor to have the President say your name like that,” Martinez said. “You have to enjoy that. If you don’t, you are not human.”