RED OAK – Heath Autrey stood in front of a room filled with players, parents and supporters of the Red Oak baseball team and made it clear that there were two things to remember about the team’s baseball banquet – there were plenty of reasons to honor the team and still plenty left to accomplish.
When the baseball program scheduled its end of season banquet last year it had no idea the Hawks would still be in the playoffs with the bi-district opener set for Thursday. That meant the show had to go on both in the field and at the podium.
“We didn’t know when we scheduled this that the season would still be going, it was scheduled last year actually, but it was nice to honor the kids and see a great group of over 200 people come out to honor all the players and the season that we’re having. Hopefully we’ll keep it going,” Autrey said.
The Hawks dropped their playoff opener with Bryan Rudder on Thursday 9-5 with game two in the best-of-three series slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. A recap of that game will be in Monday’s Daily Light.
But last week it was less about what was still left to do and more about what the team had done.
All three baseball teams at the high school were in attendance at the banquet as each got honored for their efforts over the last few months. The freshman team received recognition for a 14-6 overall record including a 10-2 mark in district. Peyton Brock and Dalton Duron were tabbed as co-MVPs for the freshman team. The junior varsity team finished the season with a 11-9-1 overall mark. Chance Pryor was chosen as the team’s MVP.
After the sub-varsity squads were honored, Autrey and his staff turned their attention to the varsity team. While district honors hadn’t been worked out yet, the Hawks were able to award team superlatives as voted on by the players.
Senior Austin Sullivan earned the War Dog Award for his willingness to help the team in whatever way he could, even when he was injured and unable to play. Infielder Alberto Hernandez, a first-year varsity starter, was named newcomer of the year and defensive player of the year for his work at third base. Hernandez finished the district season with no errors in the field.
Senior shortstop Garrett Thomas was tabbed as the team’s offensive player of the year with his .417 batting average. The final honor of the night went to fellow senior Robert Elles, who earned the team MVP honor for his 1.45 ERA and 6-1 record in district as well as his offensive prowess and ability to play in the field.
Autrey pointed out that the 21 wins by the team were already a program best and called the season a “fun year” while expressing his thanks for all the support.
He then made way for guest speaker Mike Munoz, a 12-year Major League Baseball veteran who played for numerous teams including the Rangers. A third-round draft pick of the Dodgers back in 1986, Munoz discussed how baseball is a game that can humble a person very quickly as it did him. His first major league pitch was a home run that was not “according to the plan” he had set out when starting his professional journey.
He stressed how things like that might be setbacks but leadership is what pulls people through those adversities. His message was to have a servant heart and that the best leaders draw people up to their level.
It was a message Autrey hoped his players heard and took to heart.
“Mike’s a great guy and when I called and asked him the other day he said, ‘I’d love to.’ There wasn’t any hesitation,” Autrey said. “I thought he really had a good message and I think if one kid can take what Mike said and take it to heart I think he’ll be really successful. And Mike’s a good person and a great ambassador to the game.”
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