Hall of Fame celebrates newest members
Night of Champions celebrates induction of seven new members to College Baseball Hall of Fame
LUBBOCK, Texas -- The stars and legends of college baseball gathered Saturday night for the annual Night of Champions to honor the seven new inductees into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 2016 induction class consists of a trio of coaches in Texas and Cal State Fullerton skipper Augie Garrido as well as Jackson State coach Bob Braddy and Valdosta State coach Tommy Thomas. Four former players also were inducted, including Florida State's J.D. Drew, Arizona State's Rick Monday, Houston's Tom Paciorek and Marietta College's Matt DeSalvo.
Braddy compiled an 824-546 record in 28 years at Jackson State. His teams advanced to the NCAA tournament three times, and he was named NAIA District Coach of the Year twice and SWAC Coach of the Year eight times. He was the first African-American to be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003, and he also was inducted into the JSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2005.
"I'm a country boy from Florence, Mississippi, so it's an awesome honor," Braddy said of his induction. "I coached baseball eight years at the high school level. I got a scholarship to go to Jackson State. I was eventually offered the job after eight years at the high school level. It was an awesome experience. I just can't thank Jackson State and my family who are here from all over the place. Jackson State was a blessing in disguise. It was an awesome experience for me."
DeSalvo's 53-6 career record represents the most wins by any collegiate pitcher at any level, and his 603 career strikeouts are the second most of any pitcher at any level of college baseball. He was named the Division III National Player of the Year by ABCA in 2001 and was a three-time first-team D-III All-American.
"My senior year before going down to Florida I believe a reporter mentioned it," DeSalvo said of his pitching records. "It was mentioned to me again in the 2003 season. I set goals for myself. I wanted the wins and the strikeouts. The baseball players in here know that as soon as you start looking at stats, bad things tend to happen. After a few so-so starts, I started to ignore all the records."
Drew became the second inductee in the storied history of the Florida State program. In addition to winning five national player of the year awards in 1997, he was a consensus All-American in both 1996 and 1997. He was drafted fifth overall in 1998 by the Cardinals and completed a 14-year major league career in 2011. In 1999, he was listed eighth in Baseball America's collegiate "Player of the Century" poll.
"If there was a pinnacle in my dreams, it was to play at Florida State," said Drew, who spent 14 years in the Major Leagues with the likes of the Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox. "My dream was to play in Tallahassee. I kind of had to take a step down when I went to pro ball."
Garrido concluded the 2016 season with a record 1,975 career wins and has led 15 teams to the College World Series. He has received National Coach of the Year honors six times. On March 25, 2014, he earned his 1,893rd win and passed 2009 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Gillespie to become the winningest coach in college baseball history.
"I think (baseball) is about life skills," Garrido said. "The game is cruel. The game is difficult. The game is not kind. The game never gives you what you need but it gives you an opportunity. In America, that matters. The education you get from the game of baseball is ideal. Baseball is a game of failure but it's a game of opportunity. That's the way I've tried to coach it because I learned it from others."
Paciorek was the first Houston player to receive first-team All-American honors in school history. Named first-team All-American in 1967 and 1968 by both ABCA and The Sporting News, he led Houston to the championship game of the 1967 College World Series by hitting .435 with 10 home runs in 32 games played. He later became the first Cougar to play in the big leagues, where he spent a total of 16 seasons.
"To be part of (the National College Baseball Hall of Fame) and have my family be a part of it is really special," Paciorek said. "It's so wonderful to be here. To be mentioned in the same room with these fellow inductees is very gratifying."
Monday made the most of his one varsity season as an Arizona State Sun Devil, earning National Player of the Year honors from The Sporting News for the 1965 National Champions. He batted .359 with a school-record 11 home runs and blasted two home runs during the College World Series to earn All-CWS team honors. Monday was drafted No. 1 overall by the Kansas City A's in the first Major League Baseball amateur draft in 1965 and played parts of 19 years in the big leagues. ASU retired his number in 1997.
"From a collegiate standpoint, I want to take my hat off to all of you," Monday, an avid ambassador for college baseball, said to his fellow inductees and the night's award winners. "I believe very strongly that the path to the professional ranks is through collegiate baseball. Those of us who have participated in collegiate baseball know the importance of it. (College baseball) was the wisest decision I've made in my life."
Thomas retired as the winningest coach in NCAA Division II history with 1,308 victories. He graduated from Valdosta State after a four-year career where he played third base and batted .316. He was named head coach in 1967 and led the VSU baseball team to 34 winning seasons, eight trips to the national tournament and an NCAA Division II national title in 1979. He was named the National Coach of the Year by ABCA in 1979 and was inducted into Valdosta State's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
"I'm very grateful for this award," Thomas said. "Without a doubt, (winning the 1979 national title) was the highlight of my career. The general highlight of my career - and I've shared this with many in South Georgia - is the cherished friendships I've made along the way. That is the highlight of my career."
Those also honored during the Night of Champions included Gus Steiner, who was the posthumous recipient of the National Collegiate Umpire Award; Eric Lauer of Kent State, who won the National Pitcher of the Year Award; Sheldon Neuse of Oklahoma, who won the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award; Louisville's Brendan McKay, winner of the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award; and Clemson's Seth Beer, the Dick Howser Trophy winner; and Zach Collins of Miami, winner of the Johnny Bench Award.