MIDLOTHIAN – Ray Hydes is the first to admit it. His players will all agree with it. Even the fans and parents around the Midlothian baseball program won’t argue that the 2011 season didn’t quite go as planned.
A slew of changes, including the move to 5A, made things difficult for the Panther program this spring. But last week, Hydes and his staff made sure to prove there was still plenty to celebrate.
At the annual end of season banquet, players, families and friends gathered to remember the successes of the season rather than dwell on the shortcomings.
“Everybody said, ‘Well, y’all will be a playoff team’ and it’s a very tough district. The kids played hard and they really battled back,” Hydes said. “If you look at it, we’re sitting in district and we have no business being where we’re being. We won four in a row, got ourselves back in the hunt and I’m very proud. I look at it and it’s disappointing wins and losses, but with all the other stuff we’ve had to overcome maybe it’ll jump start us and make us understand we need to work a little harder.”
While paying tribute to the kids’ efforts was the main objective of the evening, there were several tributes to the men who help lead those players day in and day out. Former Midlothian baseball coach Ronnie Clanton, who currently tends to the field maintenance at the high school, was presented a jacket worn by Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido during a game. Clanton had to be hospitalized due to injury earlier this year but has been back on the job for some time. The gift was a tribute for all his efforts in helping the program for more than three decades.
Clanton wasn’t the only coach honored as Hydes was presented with a plaque by the baseball booster club commemorating his 250th win as a coach. That victory came back in the Robert Dulin Memorial Tournament at Waxahachie against the Indians in a 3-2 victory.
Both presentations took the coaches by surprise.
“I didn’t even know anything about that. I don’t really keep up with that stuff. I didn’t know that’s when it happened,” Hydes said. “It’s all about the kids. They get those W’s. I do very little. I just stand over there and yell. But I really do appreciate it and it’s an honor. 250 wins is hard to get to. You’ve got to be there at the right place and the right time.”
The night then turned back to honoring the three levels of Panther baseball and its success this year. Coach Justin Blackwell’s freshman team posted an impressive record with 20-plus wins and a district championship. Coach Sam Riley’s junior varsity squad was also well above .500 and contended for a top spot in the district race. Players from both teams congregated on stage and were presented with certificates of participation.
The varsity program capped the night by being honored for all their accomplishments both on and off the field. Players were presented with participation certificates for helping the team get to within one game of the playoffs.
Hydes then recognized the 12 academic all-district, eight academic all-state and six all-district selections his team received over the course of the season.
With the outside honors bestowed, Hydes and staff presented the team superlatives as voted on by the players. Senior pitcher Brad Younts received the golden arm award after throwing a no-hitter against Duncanville while posting a 3.14 ERA and .252 opponents’ batting average.
Senior catcher Justin Shealy, who signed with Clarendon Junior College earlier in the day, received the most dedicated award for his commitment to the game. The awards were capped when senior outfielder Conner Roberts earned the golden bat award for his .395 average and the team MVP honor.
Along with those three seniors, another 10 players will exit the Midlothian program, leaving a big gap to be filled. Hydes hopes that the celebration was a good way to say goodbye and an even better way to motivate the next group of players to do even better.
“Our freshman were 22-3 and they can play and they’ll be sophomores (next year). Our JV had a good year too. We’re going to be young. You see 13 jerseys over there on the wall. We’ve got a lot we’ve got to pick up and we’ve got to do that,” Hydes said.
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