R.L. Florance Outworked by Nobody

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: May 25, 2010

Courtesy of the Bryan/College Station Eagle

Maybe it's because they knew one day the name opposite theirs on a baseball contract might be his, or maybe because every student-athlete in the clubhouse is in awe of the fact that he's never made below an A at Texas A&M. Maybe it's his diligence and dedication, arriving at Olsen Field before the players every day and working long after they'd gone home.

No matter what the reason, when bullpen catcher and clubhouse manager R.L. Florance spoke up three years ago in Oklahoma City, the Aggies took notice. After a loss in the opener of the 2007 Big 12 tournament, Florance was the lone Aggie to stand up and speak out after the team had been called out by coach Rob Childress. "I kind of got after the team after the game and told them, 'If you ain't planning on winning this tournament, you can just pack your stuff up and go home,'" Childress said. "Then I asked everybody in the circle if they had anything to say, talking to the players, and we had a lot of good players on that team. And the one that stood up was R.L., the players didn't say anything, he was the one that spoke up and said something about finishing the right way and getting it going again."

The Aggies, who had lost five straight games to conference teams at the time, went on to win the tournament and make a run to Super Regionals. "We all kind of took a step back because it surprised us, because here's this guy that we've heard talk maybe five times the whole year and he calls out the whole team," said pitcher Shane Minks, a fellow freshman at the time. "But you know, it was something we needed to hear, and I think hearing it from Flo, somebody that usually doesn't speak up, that kind of triggered the winning streak we went on."

Florance remembers that day well, and although he would do anything to help better the Aggies he's quick to downplay his role in the turnaround. "That team was an amazing team and I'd never seen a team that had been so confident and such a tough team, and I just wanted to remind them of that. That was what I was trying to do," said Florance, who admitted it was out of character. "I was kind of thinking about doing it and I didn't think I would say anything. Then when it was over, I was kind of thinking I wish I hadn't have done that. People like to say that had something to do with it but it was definitely the players that really did it." The players that were on the 2007 team and stood on the third-base line alongside Florance on Sunday at Senior Day aren't as quick to dismiss his influence that day in Oklahoma City. "He definitely made sense, after all he'd watched us all season," pitcher Clayton Ehlert said. "He made us realize what we were playing for and how lucky we were to be playing college baseball and that it should be fun."

Despite the occasional prodding he gets from assistant coach Matt Deggs, Florance doesn't plan on making any speeches at this year's Big 12 tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday when the fourth-seeded Aggies face fifth-seeded Texas Tech. That doesn't mean he hasn't made an impact on the program since he let his feelings known. "When you think of R.L., he means a lot more to our program than maybe a lot of players that have come through here, just the service he has done," Childress said. "Just the sacrifice he's made the last four years, working 80 hours a week, guys like Clayton Ehlert and Shane Minks understand what he means to our program and how much respect the coaching staff has for him, and how much we are going to miss him when it's all said and done. "He'll be harder to replace than some of the players, and that is a fact."

Florance came to A&M after being selected second team all-district as a catcher at Aledo High School, a Class 4A school just west of Fort Worth. He tried out for the Aggies in the fall of his freshman year but was lacking in size and ability. Childress told him there was no way he could play, but showed interest in him as a bullpen catcher and manager. As it turned out, that was what Florance was interested in in the first place. "I really didn't even want to [try out], I was just hoping he'd let me be the manager or something," Florance said. "[By trying out] I thought at the very least I got to spend a day on Olsen Field and I thought that was awesome." Florance has hardly spent a day away from Olsen Field since, helping the pitchers with their bullpen sessions on a daily basis and then turning to his other duties, which include anything from doing laundry (even the opposing team's) to handling equipment. "I'm here when I'm not in class, so it's close to 80 hours [a week]," Florance said. "It's fun, but it's really hard work. There are times, not like you want to quit, but there are times where I just want to go home and lay down." The quiet young man Childress said could hardly look anybody in the eye when he first arrived has made it a point to make the most of his stay at A&M. From becoming a better catcher for the pitchers by working extra bullpen sessions and getting in the weight room along with the players and coaches to being a straight-A student, Florance has met every challenge. "That was my goal when I came here, to get a 4.0 [grade point average], and I didn't know if it was possible at first but it takes a lot of dedication, a lot of late nights," Florance said. "I've come close a lot [to missing an A]. My first two years I made a lot of 89.5s and stuff. My next two years I did a little bit better."

Florance graduated with a 4.0 in sports management and was in the top five percent in the Law School Admission Test. He will attend law school at Vanderbilt in the fall. The accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by the Aggies, who Florance says beginning with Parker Dalton in the fall of 2006 have made a special effort to make him feel like one of the guys. "Just the fact that he didn't make one B in college while being on the same schedule we are on, being there even longer, is unbelievable, honestly," Ehlert said. "You have to respect Flo because he's here before we get here and he leaves an hour or two after we leave, helping the coaches," Minks said. "Then you go on the classroom side of things and you take all the hours he puts up here at the field and you look at his grades and it would be easy for him to slip up in one class but he hasn't, not one single slip-up in four years. That's pretty impressive." Florance's long-term goal, what drives him to put in so much work on and off the field, is to become the general manager of a professional team. "I've always wanted to work in baseball," Florance said. "I'm going into law school because to get to [the GM] level they look for someone who has knowledge of contracts, labor and arbitration, someone who has gone the extra step." Childress sees Florance as someone with endless potential. "He's got so many bigger and better things in front of him because of the way he goes about his business and the way he works," Childress said. "He's going to be a super success in anything he chooses to do." Florance gives much of the credit to his parents for his work ethic but also wonders where he might be if not for Childress.

"I love Coach Childress, he's a great man," Florance said. "He's the kind of coach that gets you to the top level of your performance and he keeps on pushing you past it. I know I couldn't be here today without Coach Childress."