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07/01/12 12:28 AM ET
Brock, Garciaparra inducted to College Hall
2012 First-Round Draft picks Zunino, Appel also honored
By Nick Kosmider / Special to MLB.com
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Lou Brock's journey to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame didn't exactly get off to a blistering start. As a freshman at Southern University in 1958, Brock struggled mightily at the plate and batted just .180. "That first year, you never know [what you're doing]," Brock said. "I was a freshman. You're running around with your head cut off. The second year, I knew what a fastball was, and could distinguish it from a curveball." Brock didn't have much trouble hitting any pitches after that rocky first year. He bounced back by batting .524 as a sophomore to lead Southern to the NAIA national championship. For his efforts, Brock was one of seven players and coaches inducted on Saturday during the College Baseball Night of Champions at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. That Brock-led team in 1959 was the first from a historically-black college or university to win a national championship at any level. "It meant a lot at that time, because we were one of the first minority schools to ever be invited [to the NAIA tournament], and we walked away with a championship," Brock said. "That just said, in essence, that our school could play with the big schools. "Even in the big leagues you have the same thing: 'Can I play with these guys?' It's always the big question." Brock proved he could play with anybody during a sterling Major League career. He hit .293 over 19 seasons with the Cardinals and Cubs, and is a member of the 3,000-hit club. His 938 stolen bases stood as the all-time Major League record until that mark was broken by Rickey Henderson. Brock was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. Brock said he decided he needed to attend college after he wasn't paid following a week of bailing hay on a farm in Louisiana. So he walked on to Southern and found his groove after that first season. "I think I took care of everything," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd gathered in the civic center. Nomar Garciaparra was also inducted, recognized for a stellar career at Georgia Tech, where he hit .372 with 23 home runs and 166 RBIs in three seasons. He also stole 66 bases during that span. "College had such an amazing influence on my life," said Garciaparra, the six-time Major League All-Star who now works as an analyst for ESPN. "To be honored in this way truly is special." Garciaparra helped guide Georgia Tech to its first College World Series in 1994, and the Yellow Jackets advanced all the way to the title game before losing to Oklahoma. One of Garciaparra's most memorable moments, though, came before his squad made it to Omaha. In a regional tournament being held at Wichita State, Georgia Tech was scheduled to play a doubleheader in sweltering 100-plus degree heat. Garciaparra suffered from severe dehydration during the first game and was ultimately sent to the hospital. After returning during the "second or third" inning of the second game, Garciaparra pleaded with Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall to put him in the game. Hall relented. It turned out to be a wise choice. "First pitch I saw I hit for a home run, and we went to the College World Series," Garciaparra said. Also inducted on Saturday were Ed Cheff, coach at Lewis-Clark State College from 1977-2010; Wayne Graham, current Rice coach and San Jacinto College coach from 1981-91; Tim Jorgensen, a Wisconsin-Oshkosh catcher from 1992-95; Frank Sancet, coach at Arizona from 1950-72; and Brad Wilkerson, a Florida outfielder/pitcher from 1996-98. Graham, a Texas native, had perhaps the largest cheering section at the ceremony, and he entertained his family, friends and fans with a number of anecdotes from a long career in coaching. The biggest laughs came when event host Robert Giovanetti suggested that Graham's ability to recruit both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte while at San Jacinto meant he had a keen eye for top talent. "I hope so," Graham said. "That or I was as lucky as all get out." Awards for the best college baseball players in the country during the 2012 season were also doled out. Florida catcher Mike Zunino -- the third-overall selection in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners -- received the Dick Howser Trophy, an award given annually to the best player in college baseball. Zunino hit .322 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs this season while leading Florida to its third straight trip to the College World Series. "He was our rock," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said of Zunino, who also won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher. The other award winners were Southeastern Louisiana's Stefan Lopez, Stopper of the Year; Stanford's Mark Appel, Pitcher of the Year; Pepperdine's Zach Vincej, Brook Wallace Shortstop of the Year; and Florida's Brian Johnson, John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year. Rich Fetchiet was the recipient of the 2012 National Collegiate Umpire Award. Fetchiet was a college umpire for more than 35 years and worked three College World Series.
Nick Kosmider is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.