August 16, 2012


Finalists named for Tom Walter Award


Following nominations from NCAA Division I programs, the finalists are set for the second annual Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award. The award recognizes examples of inspiration in college baseball.


The award is named for Tom Walter (left), the head coach at Wake Forest who donated a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan prior to the 2011 season.


Also recognized a year ago were Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor and Arizona State outfielder Cory Hahn, both of whom were paralyzed during games in the 2011 season, and Bayler Teal, a 7-year-old boy whose battle with cancer inspired 2010 and 2011 national champion South Carolina. Click here for full release of 2011 recipients.


The 2012 award winners will be announced on August 21.


Hunter Brister - Western Carolina

Brister, a junior pitcher for the Catamounts, assisted neighbors in his hometown of Pleasant Grove, Ala., following a series of devastating tornadoes on April 27, 2011. Brister drove to nearby Hueytown and walked more than three miles to reach his home. “It was like a war zone,” Brister told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “Everything was completely torn apart.” To remember the event, he writes the numbers “427” in the mound each time he pitches.


Mike Danaher - Binghamton

Danaher, a junior catcher for the Bearcats, took two weeks out of his winter vacation to make a difference thousands of miles away as part of a medical mission in Kenya. Danaher, who hit .240 with 20 RBI in 2012 and plans on attending medical school, and his group volunteered their time and assistance at the Kikuyu Orthopedic Rehabilitation Centre, assisting Binghamton's Dr. Douglas R. Kerr on more than a dozen surgeries. "To see the world from a different perspective was an eye-opening experience," Danaher told the Binghamton sports information office.


Marty Gantt - College of Charleston

Gantt, a senior centerfielder at College of Charleston, was born with an underdeveloped right hand - his fingers end where most people's fingers bend at the knuckles. The disability didn't slow Gantt one bit as he hit .373 with 11 homers, 46 RBI and 29 stolen bases and was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year. "He's also one of the most hard-nosed players I've ever coached," Cougars coach Monte Lee told CBI in June. "He's one of those guys you coach once in a lifetime."


Nino Giarratano - San Francisco

Giarratano, the coach of the Dons, made a life-changing decision before the start of the 2011 season: to donate a kidney to his 80-year-old father at season's end. The longtime coach made the decision on Christmas Day in 2010 and had the surgery to help his father in July of 2011. "The decision for me was not hard at all. As soon as I found out he needed a transplant, I was full speed ahead," Giarratano told CBI in December.


Ty Godfrey - Monmouth

Godfrey, a sophomore in high school who is the batboy for the Hawks, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor when he was seven years old. Godfrey was teamed with Monmouth baseball through “Friends of Jaclyn.” Godfrey helps prep the field for batting practice and games, while working with the umpires as well. The Godfrey family also travels with the Hawks. Along with being a team manager for his high school baseball team, Godfrey works at a local golf course and is the batboy for the minor league Lakewood BlueClaws.


Mike Kent - Clemson

Kent, a redshirt sophomore pitcher for the Tigers, picked up a save against Maryland in April. Two days later, he was enduring a six-hour bone marrow transplant for his ailing brother Matt, who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. On the year, Kent went 1-2 with two saves and a 3.76 ERA. "I think about the pain he's going through, pain he's been through the last three years now," Kent told The Post and Courier in May. "He's a fighter, and that's what I'm trying to be."


Alex Silver - Texas

Silver, a sophomore infielder for the Longhorns, was expected to be starting at third base during his freshman year in 2011. That winter break, he was diagnosed with Stage 1 Hodgkin's lymphoma. He went through numerous treatments, he was deemed cancer free and made his debut in April and started eight games down the stretch. As a sophomore, he batted .267 with 19 RBI and remains an inspiration for the Longhorns. "I never asked 'Why me?' - I guess I was lucky that it was me instead of someone that was less fortunate," Silver told the Texas sports information office.


Carter Smith - UT Martin

Smith, a freshman pitcher for the Skyhawks, was born without a right hand, invoking images of Jim Abbott on the mound. Smith started out 3-0 but finished 3-3 with a 8.10 ERA in 40 innings. "It's never been too much of an obstacle," Smith told in April. "Sometimes, if it is a slow ground ball and there is a fast runner I'll bare hand the ball instead of trying to do the glove switch. But if it is a ground ball back at me, I'll switch the glove."


Tanner Vavra - Valparaiso

Vavra, a junior infielder for the Crusaders, suffered a serious eye injury when he was 3 years old. He injured the eye again when he was 10 and lost total vision in it. The fact that he can't see out of his right eye hasn't stopped Vavra, who hit .332 with a homer and 20 RBI for NCAA participant Valparaiso. "I understand that everybody sees this as a disability, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't see myself struggling at all," Vavra told CBI in March. "I don't see it as a disability."


Colby Wren - Georgia Tech

Wren, a sophomore first baseman for the Yellow Jackets, plays through a genetic mitochondrial disease called mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation that affects his gastrointestinal system and causes his body to fatigue quickly and shut down due to lack of energy. Wren, who had one at-bat in 2012, serves as an ambassador for the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine. "If I have an opportunity to face or an opportunity to conquer or overcome something, I will," he told CBI in January.


(photo courtesy of WFU Media Relations Office)