Gator Alums return to lead way for future legends


Red tipped noses flooded the excruciatingly cold baseball stadium for the five o’clock game. If the cold weren’t inconvenient enough for outdoor sporting, ominous gray clouds promised a near shower over the already miserable crowd.
Despite such conditions, the stands were filled with loyal fans fully prepared with their coats and umbrellas to take on Mother Nature. They would not miss this game.
Camera crews stationed themselves inside the crammed dugout to get a glimpse of the action taking place within the gated area. Mary Shelley from Campus Recreation held tightly to a newly purchased baseball and in the other hand, a Sharpie. She joined the anxious crowd as a deep voice sounded from the press box.
“Good evening everyone,” the unknown announcer greeted, “let us begin the Legend’s Ceremony.”
The enthusiastic ceremony leader went on to formally introduce those recognized as San Jac baseball legends.
San Jacinto College Baseball boasts a rich and distinguished history of former players entering the Major Leagues. On Friday, Feb. 7, Gators, friends, family and fans honored these renowned alumni at John Ray Harrison field during the Legends Ceremony.
“To have your former players come together and reminisce about their time at San Jac,” Assistant Coach Kory Koehler said, “and to have them tell you how much you meant to them, and their career, is so rewarding.”
Among the former players were Andy Pettitte, Brandon Belt, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Ryan Jorgenson, Mike Gonzalez, Jared Wells, Nick Stavinoha, Brandon Hicks, Robert Manuel and Lucas Luetge. During the on-field ceremony, student players gave the recognized professionals gifts to commemorate their outstanding achievements.
“Any time you can come back to where it all started for you, its special,” Deer Park local and former New York Yankee, Andy Pettitte said. Along with numerous awards, Pettitte is a three-time American League All-Star.
San Jac Baseball is a rich recruiting ground for both four-year universities and the Major Leagues.
“For someone to reach that level,” Koehler expressed, “they must be prepared to stay humble when successful, steadfast when times are tough, and thankful for those people in their lives who have expended their time, money and love to watch them grow.”
Koehler added, the coaches work tirelessly every day to ensure their players are afforded every possible opportunity. “It is what we do, and we cherish every moment,” he said.
EJ Garcia, a San Jac freshman out of Laredo, was drafted in the 25th round of the 2013 draft by the Cincinnati Reds and continues to show promise of a future in the Major Leagues.
“Because of the success this team has had in the past,” Garcia said, “it has given us great exposure to Major League scouts and the chance to be where those former San Jac Gators are currently.”
Garcia chose to play ball for San Jac before going professional fresh out of high school.
Dan Ellis, grandfather of current Gator, Austin Boyd, said he and his wife make every game, despite the gloomy weather baseball season brings about. His old but radiant blue eyes squinted to see his grandson make the out at first base. He cheered. Slowly raising his arm, he pointed to the field.
“You can look right out there on the bottom of that scoreboard and see the history,” Ellis proudly proclaimed. “Twenty two times they’ve been to the World Series.”
His mouth moved into an appreciative grin. “And as far as I’m concerned,” Ellis said, “its one of the best JUCO (junior college) baseball schools in the United States.”