With my deepest apologies for failing to keep my site updated throughout the final third of the 2016 season, I feel it is certainly necessary to give the 2016 Pirates their props before we embark on the upcoming 2017 campaign.
I typically find myself at ease and comfortable as a wordsmith and writer, particularly when it comes to anything CVCC Baseball related, and more specifically, the young men I am privileged to coach. However, I must admit, I am completely at a loss to put in proper perspective what this team accomplished and what those boys mean to me. Even now, as I write only the second paragraph of this article, my mind and my heart are swelling with emotion. Emotion that can be demonstrated and can definitely be witnessed by anyone, but emotion so strong, simple words will never do this team justice.
I am thankful for those emotions, because it brings back a slew of memories with them that my soul will never forget. I am thankful to and humble before God that He allows me to feel what I feel when I reminisce about last season. I am thankful to and humble before God that He brought together THAT EXACT GROUP OF BOYS to play for me. I am thankful to and humble before God that He is perfect beyond human understanding that the group we had that comprised the 2016 Pirates was no accident, no coincidence and only part of His perfect plan.
I will continue on that note by saying that no less than a thousand times did I tell our team (and still tell our team) to not make baseball the most important thing in your life. Now I always followed that up by reminding them that although I want that statement to be true, that we have an obligation to each other, our families and to God Himself to give nothing but our very best everyday, since we did, in fact, decide to undertake the commitment to do this for a year or three.
A funny thing happens when baseball becomes secondary to the more important things in life, all the while putting your heart and soul into the job at which you have committed yourself. You begin in August that you are simply trying to build a winning baseball team, but what you find out in April is that WE have built a family. A family of brothers and one sister that was built with an unbreakable bond for a lifetime.
As the season wound down last year (more on the actual season later), the realization hits us all that our time together on an everyday basis is quickly coming to an end. When I feel that emotion, I bring it to the team. One of the things I always do is ask our outgoing sophomores what their favorite memories were of playing at CVCC. Some are of the baseball variety, some are of the hanging out at the apartments variety, while others are of something that I did earlier in the year that had them poking fun at me all year. At this point, they get it. It was never about baseball. Well, maybe some, but you get it, the big picture was about significance and achieving that intangible family dynamic that they were promised on their recruiting visits if they bought into what we were selling.
Dog piles last about 45 seconds, trophies collect dust and championships become a fun memory. However, relationships last a lifetime. Relationships become a real live breathing, soul filled, heart pumping entity. They do not end once the last guy gets off the bottom of the pile. They don’t get pushed into a corner or packed in a box and they certainly do not fade as the years pass. They live out a lifetime during our short 70-80 years on this Earth. And that was and will always be what the 2016 season was about – The Relationships.
There really isn’t a week that passes that I don’t hear from at least one of those guys that have moved on and of course I still get to see the now-sophomores that returned on a daily basis. I have a permanent reminder of all of those relationships and all of those emotions. I pray the Lord finds it in his infinite kindness to bring us all back together at some point. However, if He chooses not to, it won’t matter to any of us, because He gave us a bond and a closeness of heart that will always keep us together.
So, how good were those boys? They were 52 wins good. They were ACCC Champions good. They were # 1 national ranking good. They were NJCAA JUCO World Series Championship Round good. They were 3rd place in the country good. They were school record for….well, just about everything good. They were simply the best team to wear the Columbia Blue and Gold of Chattahoochee Valley good.
We had somewhat of an inauspicious start to the season though. After being ranked in the top 5 of all three junior college pre-season polls, we promptly went to Panama City and started the season 0-4. No worries though, because after that January 0-fer, my boys only lost 2 games in February, only 2 in March, only 2 in April and only 2 in May. After finishing the conference tournament with a 49-10 record and a twenty-something game winning streak, the boys got a little perspective when I told them that after the January 0-fer at the beach, they went 49-6 over the next 3 1/2 months. Not too shabby.
They went 9-2 in February, 14-2 in March, 18-2 in April and 11-2 in May. My boys ran away with the ACCC Southern Division, losing only 3 conference games all year. My boys took care of The Lake as the ran the table and went undefeated at home in 2016. And after a close, hard fought win the ACCC Tourney opener, no team got within 11 runs of those Pirates en route to our 3rd consecutive ACCC Championship and World Series berth. And they earned every bit of it.
There were plenty of individual accolades as well. Will Campbell put up what may be the greatest individual offensive season in the history of the ACCC, as he triple crowned the league. Chase Burks simply became the best pitcher to ever wear the pinstripes at CVCC, as he led the country in wins (14-0) and was 4th in ERA, and also became the single season and career leader in wins at The U. Both players earned NJCAA All-American honors.
We had All-Conference, All-Tournament and Gold Glove Team achievements as well with along with Campbell and Burks, Chase Adkins, Nolan Greckel, Jordan Lee, Carson Hughes, JT Thomas, and AJ Willoughby bringing home hardware.
Did I mention that they take care of business in the classroom? The were named an NJCAA All-Academic Team while Thomas, Willoughby, Hughes and Alex Graulich all earned Academic All-American honors.
But make no mistake, there were so many unsung heroes and behind the scene players that were critical to our success and clutch individual performances by the non-headline guys that standout just as much. For instance, how about Rook absolutely carrying the offense in the month of March with his bombfest. There was Timmy Barrells, who waited patiently for 3 years, stepping in during the World Series and producing runs. And what most don’t remember is the job that Poskey and Frank did for us behind the plate for 6 weeks after JT broke his thumb the day before opening day. How about that effort we got from Trent in closing out the 2nd Harford game in the Series!
There was Satty absolutely dealing in his start against Chipola late in the year in a match up of two top 10 teams that the Pirates won. And don’t forget that although Adkins and Burks got the press, we had JLee, Johnny Juco and Sauce that were every bit as dominant on the bump. They had 22 wins and 3 saves between them. And how about the energy that TD, Oz, Kurt, and DelHomey brought to the dugout every game!
What they did in terms of the newspaper clippings is well chronicled by those close to the program. The winning and honors are well documented, but what I’m gonna miss the most are probably only things that my boys will understand. These are but a few of those memories below:
- Copenhagen ……….
- 3 run dips
- Trash can in the left field corner day
- Haner’s girlfriend speech
- Foot on the gas speech
- Cody’s reaction to every speech I ever gave
- Harri’s hangout – Quarter Wings, Dollar Draft
- Poskey and I – “Our bad, that’s on us…”
- Just Frank in general
- BHill trying to count
- Watching Adkins, Burks, Lee, Haner and Vann pitch
- Will telling me he can’t hit when he leads the planet in everything offensively
- Trent and Rook dressing my nephew up like a rapper in GJC at Denny’s
- Frank and I getting hidden ball tricked in the World Series
- DelHomey doing anything
- Adkins making up 40 different windups against Dothan in the ACCC Tourney
- Win the 1-1
I could go on all day and I realize that most of the people who read this, other than my boys, won’t even know what some of that means. That’s just the way we like it – keeping it in the family. Because that’s exactly what we are. A family of brothers and a sister. These guys make me look like I know what I am doing out there. They make me a good coach. I’ve said this a million times before, but I’m just the guy that cuts the grass and claps during the games. One hundred percent of the credit goes to my boys for what they accomplished.
To Brandon Hill, MJ Rookard, Jaylen Smith, Tim Kennedy, Cody Harrison, Jay Meuse, Chase Adkins, Brandon Sattenfield, Carson Hughes, Jordan Lee, Nolan Greckel, Christian Vann, AJ Willoughby, Caleb Lynn, Isaac Phillips, Tanner Davis, Alex Graulich, Will Campbell, JD Brown, Stewart Tyler, Garrett Deloney, Jayson Cook, JT Thomas, Nick Poskey, Kurt Ornowski, Jacob Ozley, Frank Wager, Trent Simpson, Logan Haner, Chase Burks, Kendall Marshall, Troy Gilliland, Weston Dawson, Brent Vallor, Casey Cobb, Casey Cox, Blade Whitten, Chad McClanahan and Marissa Turturro – THANK YOU!!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us all what may very well be the best year we ever get to spend on a baseball field.
I love you all,