July 19, 2013
CBI Names Finalists for Tom Walter
RICHMOND, Va. –
CollegeBaseballInsider.com, which has covered Division I
baseball on the national level since 2002, today announces
finalists for the 2013 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration
The award recognizes examples of inspiration in
college baseball and is named for Wake Forest coach Tom Walter,
donated a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan before the
2011 season. Walter was honored along with 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
in 2011, the first year of the award. The 2012 winners
can be found here.
The finalists were nominated by Division I
college baseball coaches and administrators. The 2013 award
winners will be announced on July 25.
Dick Cooke - Davidson
In September 2012, longtime Davidson coach Dick
Cooke was driving home when he was rear-ended, forcing his car
off the highway and into a wooded area. Cooke sustained multiple
serious injuries, including bleeding on his brain, broken ribs,
a collapsed lung, a broken right tibia, a broken right ankle and
a broken right cheekbone.
The veteran coach walked with a crutch for a large chunk of
the 2013 season, and toward the end of the year, his limp was
still noticeable. On the field Cooke’s Wildcats were picked to
finish last in the SoCon but finished a half-game shy of
qualifying for the conference tournament.
Pete Frates – Boston College
On the baseball field, Pete Frates was known for
playing with intensity, energy and heart. Five years after
captaining Boston College, those same characteristics were on
display when in the spring of 2012,
he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),
or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 27. No longer able to
keep his sales job, Eagles coach Mike Gambino hired Frates as
the team’s director of baseball operations. In addition to
assisting in many phases of the Eagles’ program, Frates has been
on a mission to
raise awareness and funds for ALS research. He and his
family started the
Pete Frates #3 Fund, and the “Frate Train” helps to
subsidize medical care and expenses not covered by health
Todd Oakes and Jordan Jess – Minnesota
In 2012, Minnesota pitching coach Todd Oakes
ignored symptoms that something wasn’t quite right to get
through the season. Shortly after the season, he was diagnosed
with acute myeloid leukemia and spent 80 days in the hospital,
including a spell after receiving a bone marrow transplant from
his brother. Oakes returned this season to lead the Golden
Gophers’ pitchers, including Jordan Jess. Jess, a sophomore, was
inspired by Oakes’ ordeal and signed up with Be The Match to be
a bone marrow donor. Two short months later, Jess learned that
he was a match and in February went through a
procedure to donate bone marrow to a needy recipient.
Bill Mohl – Illinois State
On March 12, 2013, Illinois State pitching coach
Bill Mohl received a call from his wife Sarah, who had been
battling a rare form of cervical cancer since the previous
August. His wife, 28, told him she had two weeks to live. The
day Mohl told the Redbirds he had to leave to be by her side,
they beat Miami 17-6. Mohl’s
wife passed away on March 25, and he returned to the
Redbirds on April 5 – Illinois State responded by going 24-4,
including a program-best 12-game winning streak, en route to its
first outright Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title.
Mohl’s pitchers had a lot to do with it, as Chris Razo was the
first ISU pitcher to be named conference pitcher of the year,
and Dan Savas finished 10-0. Along the way, the Redbirds collected
$12,000 for the Vs Cancer Foundation, and the entire team shaved
their heads after reaching the goal. Mohl has raised
nearly $25,000 on his own through Pelotonia.
Cory Spera and Robert Tatum – Lafayette
While vacationing in Hawaii just weeks after his
Lake Braddock (Va.) High School team had won the state title,
Nick Balenger dove over a wave and suffered a severe neck injury
that left him paralyzed. Spera and Tatum, who played high school
ball near Lake Braddock, read about Balenger’s injury in
The Washington Post and sent the star pitcher a two-page
handwritten letter along with a hat and Leopards baseball shirt.
In a note to Lafayette coach Joe Kinney, Balenger’s parents said
that of all the baseball teams and players that reached out to
the family, none had touched them like the Lafayette Leopards.
“Two of your players, Cory Spera and Robert Tatum, reached out
to Nick in a way that shows such great character that I had to
let you know.” Of note, Balenger recently graduated from Lake
Braddock, surprising his classmates by
walking across the stage with the help of a walker.
Cody Stevens – Northwestern
Cody Stevens was playing summer ball for the
Chillicothe Paints of the Prospect League when he was hit in the
head by a pitch. Stevens, the son of Northwestern coach Paul
Stevens, was removed from the game and was on the team bus when
the lingering effects of the pitch started to take hold. He was
rushed to a hospital in Beckley, W.Va., where doctors determined
he should be flown to Charleston, W.Va. Doctors performed
emergency surgery for a blood clot that nearly took his life.
The road back has been slow, as Stevens redshirted this season.
But he’s returned to the playing field with the Paints this
summer. Along the way, he’s forged a lasting friendship with
Lipscomb’s Will Blalock, who delivered the unfortunate pitch.
inspired his teammates with his faith, as well as his desire
to get back on the field.
In 2011 and 2012, Texas Pan-American held a pair
of blood drives for a local 4-year-old who was diagnosed with a
rare bone marrow disease. The local girl made a full recovery.
While on a trip to UT-Brownsville, an NAIA school, a Brownsville
woman asked to meet Broncs coach Manny Mantrana. The family had
seen a story about the Broncs’ support of Jiada Grace Ortiz and
wondered if they could help their son Nolan Naranjo, a
5-year-old who also had aplastic anemia. On May 12, 2012, the
hosted a blood drive at their game to benefit Nolan with all
donors getting free tickets and the Naranjo family enjoying the
game in a suite with gift baskets and free food and drink from
the concession stand. Nolan threw out the first pitch. Nolan’s
condition worsened over the summer as he developed
myelodysplastic syndrome and needed a bone marrow transplant.
The baseball team decided to
hold a bone marrow drive for Nolan on September 12, 2012.
Every member of the team registered to become bone marrow donors
and encouraged 250 people to register. They sent a video of the
drive to Nolan. Later, when the child lost his hair, the Broncs
shaved their heads and took a team photo holding up letters
that spelled out “NOLAN #1.” The team sent the photo to Nolan,
and it hung in his hospital room for the rest of his stay. He
also came to start calling the Broncs “my team.” In the end,
Nolan’s mother, who was a 50 percent match, donated her bone
marrow and Nolan’s body accepted the donation. The Broncs
another Blood Drive in Nolan’s honor on January 29, 2013.
The timing was perfect, as Nolan was home from the hospital that
weekend, so his family was able to take him to see his team.
Godfrey, a junior in high school, is a batboy for
Monmouth. He was diagnosed with a
malignant brain tumor when he was seven years old. Godfrey
connected with Hawks baseball through “Friends of Jaclyn.” Godfrey
helps prep the field for batting practice and games, while
working with the umpires as well. 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