Hall of Fame celebrates newest members
Night of Champions features Class of 2015 induction
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Baseball champions from across the country gathered Monday for the fifth annual Night of Champions to honor the eight newest inductees to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 2015 induction class included Miami-Dade North Community College and Arizona State pitcher Joe Arnold; Arizona State outfielder Mike Kelly; Rice first baseman and outfielder Lance Berkman; Lubbock Christian and Texas Tech coach Larry Hays; North Carolina A&T pitcher Al Holland; Eastern Connecticut State coach Bill Holowaty; Wisconsin outfielder Rick Reichardt; and St. John's pitcher Frank Viola.
Holowaty follows 2009 inductee Gordie Gillespie and 2013 inductee Don Schaly on the Division III list with 1,404 wins and led Eastern Connecticut State to four NCAA Division III national championships. One of the most successful coaches in NCAA Division III history, Holowaty retired with a 1,404-525-7 career record.
"We were privileged to have some great kids," the four-time national coach of the year said. "Our philosophy was to make Major League people not Major League ballplayers. We wanted the kids to come out of our place with a career beyond baseball. You can call it life after baseball, and that was our objective. I think a lot of parents could buy into that and they believed in it."
Berkman, who went on to make a name for himself in Major League Baseball, finished his collegiate career with 67 home runs, a .385 batting average and 272 RBIs. He led Rice to its first College World Series appearance in school history and was named National Player of the Year by the NCBWA and an All-American at first base.
"I came in at a good time because the foundation was being laid for the program that everyone now knows," he said. "We had Jose Cruz Jr., we had Mark Quinn who played in the big leagues, we had Matt Anderson who pitched in the big leagues, he came in my year, and coach (Wayne) Graham, obviously, who won six junior college national titles. It wasn't me. I just kind of came in at the right time."
Viola, who also went on to have a 15-year Major League career, began his career leading St. John's club to Omaha in 1980 and had a 26-2 career record, and is best known for his 1-0, 12-inning win in the 1981 NCAA regional thriller over Yale and Ron Darling.
"Thirty-five years later there was maybe, in 1980, over 1,000 people at that game, and in 2015 there was about 32,500 that were there," he said. "I told the story today about out of all the baseball I've seen, and I'm talking over 45 years, to this day it was the best pitched game I've ever seen, and it wasn't me, it was Ron Darling. Our friendship has gone on from there. We did something really special that day."
Baseball star-turned-coach Arnold was named two-time All-American pitcher while at Miami-Dade North and then MVP of the 1966 Junior College World Series, where he holds the record for most innings pitched at 30 2/3. He went on to pitch at Arizona State, where he had a record of 11-1. Arnold finished his playing career with a total of 40 wins and five losses.
Arnold coached Florida Southern to six regional titles and two NCAA Division II National Championships in 1978 and 1981, then led the Florida Gators to 434 wins, a .640 winning percentage, and two appearances in the College World Series.
"My first start was because my mom came during the weekend and said 'Hey, you know, he's a heck of a pitcher. When is he going to pitch?' I was playing shortstop and coach (Demie) Mainieri says, 'Well, we're playing Ohio State on Tuesday,' and that year in 1966, (Steve Arlin) was the All-America pitcher for Ohio State, and Ohio State won the championship," Arnold said. "I beat them 1-0 in my first start, so from that point on I was a pitcher at Miami-Dade."
Hays, another standout coach, spent time at both Lubbock Christian and Texas Tech while compiling 1,508 career wins and appeared in nine NCAA tournaments and was named conference coach of the year nine times.
"To get to coach at Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian," he said, "who wouldn't be blessed to get to do that? I'm so thankful for that, and I want to thank those two universities for that opportunity. I want to thank my wife, Nell, for putting up with that all these years."
Before beginning a 10-year Major League Baseball career, Holland threw a no-hitter in each of his collegiate seasons. His no-hitter against North Carolina Central in 1972 included 25 strikeouts. As a freshman, Holland led the nation in strikeouts (143) and was second in ERA (0.54), finishing his career with a 30-5 record.
"There was nobody in the game that stood in the batter's box that I was afraid of," he said. "It did not matter who it was. I challenged them. To me, as a pitcher, that's the key to being a successful pitcher."
An Arizona State record-holder and 1990 Golden Spikes National Player of the Year, Kelly has a career .350 batting average, 197 runs scored, 46 doubles, 194 RBIs and 46 home runs. It was his 1990 season, though, that ranks among the top individual efforts in college baseball history with a .376 average, 17 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs and 82 RBIs.
"I had a good senior year of high school, but none of the local schools like USC or UCLA or Cal State Fullerton had any interest in me," he said. "I got no offers from any of those schools. But Jim Brock came out to see me play; I think it was an all-star game, and I hit a home run and he congratulated me on the home run and all of that and then offered me a full scholarship to ASU."
Two-sport athlete Reichardt led the 1963 Big Ten season with a .429 batting average in conference games and five home runs. In 1964, the same year he led the Wisconsin football team to the Rose Bowl, he finished second in the nation with a .443 batting average in conference games -- a Wisconsin record.
"When spring football rolled around I had to find an excuse, so I asked the coach if I could go out for baseball, and he said, 'Yes, as long as you make the team and as long as you're a starter.' I said, 'Oh my goodness.' He said, 'Did you play baseball in high school?' I actually did play about 10 games because my dad was upset that I hadn't gotten my 12th letter. One of my coaches was a guy by the name of Jimmie Reese, and Jimmie Reese used to say, he was actually Babe Ruth's roommate, but he said, 'Rick, you never know when you're destiny is five minutes ahead.' About two years at University of Wisconsin I ended up becoming the No. 1 player in the United States, so you just never know."
Those also honored during the Night of Champions include the Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson as the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year; Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer as the National Pitcher of the Year; Louisville's Brendan McKay as the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year; John Magnusson as the National Collegiate Umpire Award winner; Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri as the Skip Bertman National Coach of the Year; Arkansas' Andrew Benintendi as the Dick Howser Trophy winner; and Johnny Bench award winner Garrett Stubbs.