FEATURE: Josh Jung Reflects on Time With Collegiate National Team, His Road To Glory

From growing up in San Antonio to playing for the Rangers, 2018 Collegiate National Team member Josh Jung has a lot to play for and still has something to prove

Not many players can say they’ve played for their country. Not many can say they’ve played for their local major league club, let alone even play in the majors. But 2018 Collegiate National Team (CNT) alum and current Texas Ranger Josh Jung can.

In his rookie year, Jung played an integral role on the diamond for the Texas Rangers. The young star frequently found himself in the five-hole, and consistently delivered on the biggest stage en route to helping the franchise win its first ever World Series title this fall.

Jung was born and raised in Texas, hailing from the not-so small town of San Antonio, where he was a four-year letterwinner at Douglas MacArthur High School and helped the baseball team to four straight playoff appearances. For Jung, being a ‘homegrown kid’ means everything. 

“It means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to my family,” Jung said. “I get to have them at most of my games because it’s not that far, for an organization to have a ‘homegrown kid’, it gives them someone to cheer for.”

Three years were spent in the minor leagues before making his debut late in the 2022 season, an emphatic entrance as Jung homered in his very first MLB at-bat. He proceeded to win American League Rookie of the Month twice, on top of an All-Star selection at third base to become the first Ranger rookie to start in an All-Star game.

Before his minor league stint, he was a former Texas Tech standout and compiled various awards such as Big-12 Freshman of the Year, Big-12 Co-Player of the Year, and the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Silver Slugger award. After his sophomore year, Jung was invited to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Training Camp where he earned the greatest privilege: representing his country on the 2018 squad.

“It's an honor, the coaches that season just selecting you to be on their team was a big honor in itself,” Jung recalled. “But it’s also an honor to play for your country, wear the uniform, and go out there and compete with the best in the country. On a personal level, it shows that you're a pretty good ballplayer, but it also just creates friendships.”

Jung notes that one of his most memorable memories during his time with the CNT occurred away from the grass and dirt field, highlighting those friendships made along the way. 

“My favorite was on an off day we had. We all sat at the pool hanging out, fell asleep, and ended up with pretty bad sunburns.”

‘We’ being other college standouts and Jung’s teammates from that national team who are now playing in the pros. He made sure to note how those relationships have evolved over time.

“I saw a glimpse of how these are all future big leaguers who are going to have long careers, and now you actually see them doing that,” he said. “We’re all buddies now and good friends, and to just cheer for each other, you can't be happier. It makes playing against each other fun, especially when you step in the box and Adley’s (Rutschman) back there, it calms the game down and you can kind of joke around with them on a personal level.”

When it came to being on the diamond, Jung had something to prove, as he co-led the CNT in hits (15) and registered a .283 batting average as the United States’ everyday third baseman. The CNT finished its tour around the southeast United States and Cuba with a record of 12-3.

In his first year in the bigs, the World Series was far from a lounge by the pool, however.

“It was a grind. We went through a lot of emotions after losing the division to having to be on the road the whole postseason. At the end of the regular season we lived and died by every single pitch because we were trying to do way too much.”

Jung then remembered his time with the CNT and the lessons he’s taken away from that experience, specifically working with one of his coaches, current East Carolina Head Coach Cliff Godwin.

“We would go hit early everyday together, working on approach and staying in the middle of the field,” Jung remembered. “That's something I always fall back on when I'm struggling or when things don't go my way, just don’t do too much.”

‘Don’t do too much.’ Jung has relied on that advice from Team USA’s coach and has brought that with him to the majors, evident in his play. The eighth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft surpassed 125 hits, 70 RBIs, and has landed himself as a frequent flyer in Texas’ lineup in his rookie campaign.

For now, Josh is the only in Major League Baseball. Give it some time and that will change, as Josh’s younger brother and 2021 CNT alum, Jace, rises through the MiLB system, recently winning an MiLB Gold Glove Award at second base. 

“It's special because I know coming out of high school and going to Texas Tech, it kind of felt like he had to fill some shoes,” the older Jung said. “It's cool seeing him make his own way, finding his own path, and seeing him have great success with his own game, I couldn’t be happier for him.” 

It's not only special to watch from afar a hometown kid represent his roots, but a monumental moment for Jung himself to reflect on.

“It means everything to be drafted by and make the bigs with the Rangers. Hopefully I’ll have a positive impact on this organization for a while.”