Etier returning to lineup following four-game suspension

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A few months ago, Jordan Etier’s baseball career was over.

The former Westlake star and two-year starter at Texas was booted off the baseball team following an arrest for marijuana possession and evading arrest last October. But Etier was reinstated last month and instead handed a four-game suspension, rather than a career-ending season-long ban. Now the Longhorns welcome back their senior second baseman to the lineup as they head to Palo Alto to square off against No. 3 Stanford.

“It’s a life-changing experience, no doubt about it,” Etier said. “It’s absolutely awesome to play baseball again. I was able to kind of look back and get away from baseball for a little bit but it just showed me how much I really cared about baseball, how much I cared about the team and the guys that I was with and the role they played in my life.”

Etier’s return comes at an opportune time as the Longhorns have committed two errors in each of their last two games, both losses. Freshman Brooks Marlow filled in for Etier while he was serving his suspension — hitting two home runs in his Texas debut — and head coach Augie Garrido has not yet decided where Etier will fit into the lineup. Etier could replace Marlow, or either Marlow or Etier could slide over to shortstop and swap spots with sophomore Christian Summers, a .125 hitter so far this season.

“He’ll bring a lot leadership to the infield,” Garrido said. “I think he’ll bring something to the batting order, too. He’s a settling force and the players listen to him and respect him. So he’ll be in the lineup, we just have to figure out where.”

Another thing Etier brings to the table is much-needed veteran leadership. Twice as many underclassmen have gotten playing time as upperclassmen, as only two seniors have seen the field this year. The list of nine opening day starters included just one junior, left fielder Jonathan Walsh, and one senior, center fielder Tim Maitland. With Etier back in the batter’s box and middle infield, a young Texas team adds an experienced piece to its lineup.

“He was a leader last year on this team and he’s probably one of the more vocal guys that we have on this team,” said sophomore pitcher Nathan Thornhill. “He’ll add a little extra spark to our defense and to our dugout. Everybody’s probably going to have a little bit more energy with Jordan back.”

Etier himself might have a little more of a hop in his step. Garrido and his teammates have noticed a different demeanor and attitude in him since he returned to the squad. As a baseball player, Garrido said, Etier has never had a problem. His work ethic and enthusiasm on the field have always set an example for the people around him. But after what Etier did off the field, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound middle infielder claims to have a different perspective on life, and others have taken notice.

“He has been given an opportunity and he recognizes that it’s a life-changing opportunity,” Garrido said. “He was facing not being able to graduate from the University of Texas and not being able to play on the baseball team — both very important things. Now, he’s been given that opportunity back. Now, he has a very different view and is not taking very many things for granted.”