Alright people, I know I’m a slacker… but honestly… did you really expect me to jump right onto the computer after winning the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP? I’ve been celebrating… and it’s never felt better to be a winner! Remember that team that lost in the conference tournament, and most people counted us out to compete in the South Region? The team that people chanted “overrated”, or the team that got “lucky” to win… Well that team is now Division 2 National Champions! Let it soak in for a second…. National Champions! Whenever someone says that, it just brings a smile to my face. It really started to hit me when we got on our chartered flight back to Pensacola and the flight attendant addressed us as, The National Champion UWF Argonauts.
The experience cannot be matched by any type of winning… This is the ULTIMATE goal that every player plays for. It’s the reason why we wake up early for weights, when other students don’t wake up until noon. The reason why we kill ourselves in the gym 4 days a week, with a intense conditioning day on the 5th day. It is a combination of every sprint I’ve had to run during team punishment (and I was apart of the 2008 team that could probably compete with most Cross Country teams). It all paid off on June 4, 2011.
June 4th, the day that will live on in 28 players lives, and over 500 UWF fans, as the day that UWF made history by winning their first ever NCAA National Championship. Winning was gratifying, but when I take a moment to look at the big picture of what it meant to win, I think about the city of Pensacola. Before this team started the 2011 season, there was little support for UWF Athletics. When this team started winning, people started seeing that a UWF baseball game was an enjoyable experience to be apart of. From the dugout you could see the enjoyment on peoples faces when the bench players would do our LOVE IS GONE dance, or inning stretches. You started to see the community want to be a part of a winning team, and a sport that most people are fans of, regardless if they had ever picked up a baseball. It’s the American past-time… We started to see little league teams come out asking for autographs, and watching their coaches say, “watch how Greg Pron hits” or “watch Danny Vargas strike this guy out”. We had a winning team, but looking back on the year, when the community started coming out, it became a winning environment! Its obvious when you look at the stats, 33-2 at home! That’s hard to imagine.
Looking back on the World Series victory, you can’t look past 2 main contributors during the post season. Obviously there was the same production from Vargas, Pron, and Lawley as there had been all year, but Josh Huggins and Taye Larry elevated their games at the right time, and was the defining reason of why we are champions. Before the regional, Coach Jeffcoat pounded the saying, “If you don’t care who gets the credit, we will win”! That couldn’t be more true. Throughout the entire year, you heard about the record breaking performances from Greg Pron, the power display by Lawley, and the down right dominance of the pitching staff. What you didn’t often hear about, was how Huggins and Taye battled all year going threw hot streaks and cold streaks. Both players were struggling for the last few weeks of the season and the conference tournament. Both players took a non-selfish approach at the plate, realized what they needed to do to help the team, and put it into action! Taye started pounding the ball into the ground and beating out infield hits. Josh started shooting the ball to right field, which would generally score Pron or Lawley. These 2 players, among others deserve a lot of credit, because they are the unsung hero’s of a team that was destined to win a championship.
For 12 seniors, their last collegiate game will always be a victory. They will never have to remember what it was like to lose a game on the biggest stage of college baseball. It’s my opinion, that it doesn’t matter if we were winning in Cary, N.C. or at Omaha. It was going to feel the same. Personally I would have rather won in front of 500 Argonaut fans then 20,000 people that are just at the CWS for the experience. It was more personable to win it in front of the people that genuinely care about you and UWF.
For me, I say goodbye to 5 Seniors that I came to school with as freshmen, and 7 others that I have spent 2 years with. Each and every one of them are life long friends, that have helped accomplish history. For the 7 JUCO guys, they came into a program that was winning, for the 5 seniors, including myself who were at UWF in 08′ when we were 20-32 its a feeling of gratification. No one would have ever thought that in 4 short years, we’d be making history on two different spectrum’s of the grid. From worst to best… and looking back at all of the sprints, all of the bad times, that single moment of rushing the field and flying on top of the pile wipes away any bad memory that we had. There will only be that numbing feeling of watching Shane Waller strike out the last batter, and sprinting on the field to try and tackle someone and jump on the pile. The feeling that someone can never get used too, but will never forget.
We won, no one can ever take that away from us. But after a few days, or for most of us, a week of celebrating, its back to work! Time to prepare to DEFEND our championship. A chance to prove that UWF is not a one-year wonder. Its my responsibility as a 5th year player in this program to continue the legacy of what my teammates are leaving behind. With winning comes great responsibility. Regardless of who we have on our team next year, there is a certain way we play baseball at UWF. It’s blue collar, we play hard, we are humble. We know that if we get complacent, the game will come back and punch us square in the jaw. There will be an even bigger target on our back then ever before… do we want that? Of course! We won for a reason, because we were the best. Coach Jeffcoat will always want to be the best, and he’ll be the first to tell you if he doesn’t feel that way he’ll throw in the towel. At the beginning of the season Coach Jeffcoat told us his biggest fear was we wouldn’t reach our potential.. well Coach we did!
I’m now in a town called Walnut Creek, CA which is just outside of San Francisco playing summer ball. A complete change in scenery… mountains and NO humidity! I’m loving it! I will keep everyone updated with occasional blogs. Also, I’ll probably try to write more of a column type blog throughout the summer… Just writing about different aspects of baseball. Our championship season is over, but a new one starts now! TIME TO PREPARE LIKE CHAMPIONS!
Thanks for all of the support this season, it has made writing more enjoyable knowing that people actually enjoy reading me rambling on about baseball.
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Philip Ebert 36