Gene Stephenson remembers when he left the University of Oklahoma to take over as the head coach at Wichita State in the spring of 1977.
“We came here and there wasn’t even a ball. There was nothing here,” Stephenson said. “From those humble beginnings, what we came to realize and brought with us were players who had dreams. Young men who didn’t have any idea what they could become.”
Entering his 36th year with the Shockers, Stephenson’s message hasn’t changed. What has changed is just about everything else.
Stephenson spoke about the past, present and future of WSU baseball at the annual First Pitch Banquet on Monday in the Koch Arena practice gym.
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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost was the featured speaker, along with former Shocker All-American and current Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks.
Dirks played in every game of the 2012 World Series as Detroit was swept by San Francisco.
“Gene wanted me to get up here and talk about my experience in the World Series, but that ain’t going to happen, because we lost in four games,” Dirks said during his speech.
Dirks, who went to Haven High , was more willing to talk about his experience playing for Stephenson at WSU.
“Once I got done playing and started my pro career and traveling around, that’s when it kind of dawned on me how big Wichita State baseball really is,” Dirks said. “It’s really good to come to an event like this because I don’t get to see a lot of these people just going to the field and working out. Coming back and seeing all the people that supported me and all the people that have been a part of Wichita State baseball is exciting.”
Along with the speakers, WSU play-by-play announcer Mike Kennedy presented the 2012 team awards. Kevin Hall, a senior outfielder last year, took home the most awards with three. Current senior first baseman Johnny Coy was named both the Most Outstanding Player and the Most Valuable Player.
The Shockers’ season gets underway on Feb. 15 against Pittsburgh.
Team awards for 2012 — Most Valuable Player, Coy; Most Outstanding Player, Coy; Most Outstanding Pitcher, Kris Gardner; Most Inspirational Player, Garrett Bayliff; Most Improved Player, Dayne Parker; Golden Glove, Hall and Dayne Parker; Beacon of Light, Tyler Baker; Academic Leadership, Hall; Charlie Hustle, Hall.