March 23, 2012
For Auburn sophomore outfielder Ryan Tella and junior first baseman Garrett Cooper traveling over 2100 miles from California to Auburn was a big change in their lives. Coming from the Bay Area and Los Angeles to a small college town is a drastic change that has been nothing but positive for the two.
"I wanted to see something else besides California," Tella said. "Once I got here, it was a little different. I wasn't used to the small town coming from a big area. There are over ten million people in the Bay Area, so coming to a small town, people are friendlier. They come up to you and speak to you whereas in the Bay they avoid you and go on with their day."
Although the two didn't know much about Auburn other than its football program, as soon as they stepped foot on the Plains, it was a place they would never forget.
"The first time I visited here, I visited about four times, I fell in love with it," Cooper said. "Everyone was literally `All-In'. I loved everything about the school and the area. I knew Auburn was in Alabama, even though my brothers didn't. Once I talked to (recruiting coordinator) Scott Foxhall, I knew this was a place that I would be really interested in."
Cooper grew up next to the beach, but having a mother from Little Rock, Ark., prepared him for the lifestyle changes that lay ahead.
"I knew coming down here that it was very Southern, so I kind of knew what to expect," Cooper said. "My mom still calls me to make sure I go to church."
Coming to the SEC from JUCO has been a bit of a change for the two. Although almost all of their teammates have gone to play in Division I, the competition has been very tough, especially the pitching.
"The pitching in this league is really good," Tella claimed. I have never seen a 96 MPH fastball in my life until I got here."
"The competition (in the CCCAA) was good, but nothing like it is down here," Cooper said. "Every pitcher is top notch and throwing 90 and above. You never have a weekend off in this league."
However, the two have made an instant impact for the Tigers as both had a big opening weekend at Ole Miss. The two combined for 11 hits over the weekend, including the two hits that spurned the comeback victory on Sunday. Facing a 2-2 count with two outs in the top of the ninth, Tella blooped a double down the left field line to give the Tigers runners in scoring position. After a Cullen Wacker
RBI double to tie the game, Cooper lined a single up the middle to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
"I just went up there doing what I can do and I saw a hanging slider," Cooper said of his game-winning hit. "Once it went through, I dropped some celebratory words. It is just nice to head into SEC season and get a win on the road."
Being the first two players from California to sign with John Pawlowski at Auburn, the two have a special bond.
"I feel like we have a bond because our style puts us out like that," Tella said. "We say different things and we have the same music we listen to, but the bond is on the baseball field."
"He is one of my better friends on the team," Cooper said. "It is easy because he is from California so he knows the lifestyle. We get along really well, and he is a really good player."