Anyone who has watched a Waxahachie baseball game over the past three years already knows what the rest of the state, and country for that matter, will soon learn: Peyton Graham is pretty salty on the diamond.
The thought was recently cemented with his naming to the 6A roster for the 46th annual Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game.
Records on-hand at the Daily Light combined with memories pieced together following discussions with Waxahachie baseball alumni found that Graham will become the seventh Indian to participate in the showcase at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
Graham joins the likes of future seemingly-obvious WISD Athletics Hall-of-Famers Boomer Collins and Colton Cain, who are the two most recent participants having played in the THSBCA all-star game in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Waxahachie was also represented by Ray Crone Jr (1982), John Rodgers (1989), Jeff Turner (1990) and Zip Drain (2000).
Lee Martinez was selected to the same North-South All-Star in 1996, but did not make the trip to participate in the game in Round Rock.
Crone Jr., the first Waxahachie Indian to participate in the long-heralded North-South All-Star game, is the son of Ray Crone, who spent 13 years as a player in professional baseball and 20 more as a scout. The younger Crone played for two years in the minor leagues after being drafted out of Sam Houston State University and then transitioned into the scouting department, serving in front offices for the then-California Angels, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Rodgers continued the tradition of Indians moving from the all-star showcase into professional baseball by being drafted — three times.
The since-defunct Montreal Expos first selected him out of high school in the 37th round of the 1989 MLB June amateur draft. Rodgers was then picked out of Panola College by the Cleveland Indians the following year in the 44th round.
Three years later, the Chicago Cubs selected Rodgers in the 24th round of the 1993 June draft out of Rice University.
Rodgers, who is now a battalion chief for the Waxahachie Fire Department and Waxahachie ISD board member, collected 20 hits over 91 minor league at-bats with three doubles and five RBIs before hanging up the spikes.
Turner, the son of Waxahachie Hall of Fame coach Mike Turner, made the all-star game the year after Rodgers. It's said that he tore the cover off of the baseball throughout his senior season to earn his way onto the squad.
The same could be said for Drain following his all-state and all-star selection in 2000.
According to a Grapevine Sun article published May 23, 1999, Drain "crushed a 380-foot home run" to give the Indians a 5-0 lead in the decisive third game of the 4A Region II quarterfinal series against Southlake Carroll at Allan Saxe Stadium. He also was the winning pitcher in game one of that series.
The Waxahachie third baseman was then named to the 4A all-state-tournament team the following week.
With all of that history in mind, and a little more to be digested later in this article, it's time we get back to the subject at hand — the newest Waxahachie alumnus to join the smallest fraternity of Indians baseball greats.
Graham will also be the first to compete in the 6A-5A-combined THSBCA North-South All-Star game.
Waxahachie skipper Tracy Wood, who was chosen as one of the 4A head coaches in the 2010 THSBCA all-star game, noted Graham's selection is "a huge honor. Huge."
"This is the big one and it is a pretty big honor," Wood said. "This kid is legit. [...] His impact on our program has been huge."
Wood added, "I am proud of him. He deserves it and is a solid kid to go along with it, even besides being a good baseball player. He works hard at it, is a good student and has high character. Peyton is always doing what he is supposed to be doing and is a team-first kid and a great example for the younger kids. I am proud of him."
Graham slugged a team-high five home runs in 99 at-bats with a team-high .374-batting average. .626-slugging percentage and a staggering 1.073 OPS.
He also accounted for 19 RBIs and 17 runs with eight doubles and 37 total hits.
Though regularly serving as the Indians slick-handed shortstop, Graham also picked up a pair of wins on the bump. He finished the season with a 2.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 30 innings pitched.
During his junior season, Graham led the Indians with three home runs to go along with a .322-batting average and 28 hits over 113 plate appearances en route to his 10-5A Offensive Player of the Year award. He also led the team in RBIs (20) and runs scored (21).
During a phone interview this past Saturday, just a few hours after he was notified, Graham admitted that the magnitude of his selection had not yet set in. That fact did not detract from his excitement, however.
"I didn't really expect to get it, to be honest," Graham said. When asked if the accomplishment had set in yet, Graham humbly replied, "No, not really. But I am excited to be chosen."
Graham previously signed his national letter of intent to continue his baseball career at the University of Oklahoma on Nov. 14, 2018. It is the same university that Drew Harrison, also a teammate of Collins and Cain, attended before being drafted in the 23rd round of the 2012 MLB first-year player draft by the Detroit Tigers.
That same OU program has twice won the College World Series and has advanced to Rosenblatt Stadium 10 times since the CWS began in 1951. The Sooners, currently led by Skipp Johnson, are just one of just 17 Division I programs to have qualified for the CWS 10-or-more times.
Graham, who noted that he will miss his Waxahachie teammates, coaches and Paul Richards Park, said a few short-term goals once on campus at Oklahoma include adding a little weight to his frame and "trying to earn a starting spot as a freshman. That'd be nice."
He also said the coaching staff has informed Graham that he will likely work out at third base and shortstop, at least when he first arrives. One thing the staff won't necessarily have to invest too much time and energy into his perfecting Graham's picturesque swing.
The righty credits his father for swing and that he hits "pretty much every day on my own, always working on it and trying to perfect it."
"I tell myself before I go into the box, every single time, to expect the fastball and then adjust to anything offspeed," explained Graham of how he is able to keep his head on the ball through the zone and off the barrel. "You need to see it for a long time and, if you do, then the sliders and curveballs get easier to see. It's still a little hard to see the change up because it looks just like a fastball, but if you can get your hands inside then you're pretty much able to rope any ball into any part of the field."
Graham will soon put that approach on display as the newest member of Waxahachie alumni in the THSBCA all-star team, and it's rather elite company in the post-2000s era.
Yes, there are of course a couple dozen Division-I ballplayers and early-round Major League Baseball draft picks that will be in attendance for this year's all-star game.
On a local level, his selection also bodes well for a potential post-collegiate career, especially recently.
Boomer Collins participated in the game following the Indians run to the 2008 4A state title game.
Colton Cain, who played in the 2009 THSBCA all-star game, was the ace of that same ball club and picked up a win on the bump against Birdville in the state semifinals.
Collins went on to play two seasons at the University of Nebraska before transferring to Dallas Baptist University for his final two collegiate seasons and after a hand injury. Though undrafted, he enjoyed a three-year career in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system, reaching as high as High-A ball in Dunedin, Florida.
Collins recorded 170 hits over 652 minor league at-bats for a .261 average with nine home runs, six triples, 37 doubles and 89 RBIs during his MiLB career.
He even tried his hand at professional cricket before turning to a coaching career at the high school level.
Cain, on the other hand, was an eighth-round selection by Pittsburgh Pirates following his senior season in 2009. He played in the THSBCA all-star game just 11 days after he was drafted on day two of the draft.
Cain was eventually traded to the Houston Astros organization in 2012 as part of the deal that sent starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates.
He was eventually promoted to AA Corpus Christi, in the Astros organization, on April 3, 2014.
Cain finished his five-year minor league career with a 20-25 record and 4.25 ERA on the bump while striking out 333 batters to 161 walks over 433.2IP.
Collins issued a few words of congratulations and advice to Graham ahead of the all-star appearance.
"While your career at Waxahachie may be over, the journey has just begun," Collins said. "Take pride in wearing the green-and-white one last time; it will run in your blood as long as you live. Enjoy the day, it is a really cool experience with the best baseball players across the state coming together in one place.
He added, "You will remember the guys you played with and several of you will play against each other for years to come. Again, congrats on an awesome high school career and being nominated for this prestigious game. Good luck and go Indians!"
Cain echoed the sentiment, adding, "Congratulations PG on your well-deserved success. You've represented yourself and the program well. Take this opportunity to thank and appreciate all those who helped you along the way."
Graham and the rest of the THSBCA all-stars take the field June 15 at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
And he is excited to don the green and white one final time.
When asked which individual awards sticks out the most, Graham, after a short pause, said it was the THSBCA All-Star selection.
"This lets me know that other people have taken me into consideration as someone that is pretty good," he explained.
However, "pretty good" might be the understatement of the baseball season, Mr. Graham. So good luck in Round Rock and Norman, Peyton, Waxahachie will be following along.