FROM CBI PRESS RELEASE
RICHMOND, Va. – CollegeBaseballInsider.com today announces its winners of the second annual Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award, which recognizes examples of inspiration in college baseball.
The 2012 winners include Marty Gantt from College of Charleston, Mike Kent (right) from Clemson, Alex Silver from Texas, Carter Smith from UT Martin and Tanner Vavra from Valparaiso.
The award is named for Tom Walter, the head coach at Wake Forest who donated a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan before the 2011 season.
“We feel privileged to highlight and honor such an incredible group of student athletes,” said Sean Ryan, co-founder of CollegeBaseballInsider.com, which has covered Division I college baseball since 2002. “The five winners, as well as our five other finalists, epitomize what college athletics is all about, and we are inspired by all they have accomplished on and off the baseball diamond.”
Gantt (left) was a senior centerfielder this past year at College of Charleston. He was born with an underdeveloped right hand, as his fingers end where most people’s fingers bend at the knuckles. The disability didn’t slow him one bit as he hit .373 with 11 homers, 46 RBI and 29 stolen bases and was named the 2012 Southern Conference Player of the Year. He was selected in the seventh round of the Major League Draft by Tampa Bay. “He’s also one of the most hard-nosed players I’ve ever coached,” Cougars coach Monte Lee told CollegeBaseballInsider.com in June. “He’s one of those guys you coach once in a lifetime.”
Kent was a redshirt sophomore pitcher for Clemson in 2012. Told by doctors he shouldn’t play baseball after injections to prepare him for a bone-marrow transplant for his ailing brother Matt, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a weakened Kent tossed 3.1 scoreless innings to save a game against Maryland. Two days later, Kent underwent a six-hour bone marrow transplant. 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.”
Silver was a sophomore infielder for Texas this past season. He was expected to be the starting third baseman during his freshman campaign in 2011. That winter break, he was diagnosed with Stage 1 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He endured numerous treatments before becoming cancer free and making his debut in April, starting eight games down the stretch in 2011. As a sophomore in 2012, 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.
Smith (right) was a freshman pitcher for UT Martin in 2012. He was born without a right hand, reminding observers of Jim Abbott on the mound. Smith started the year 3-0 but finished 3-3 with an 8.10 ERA in 40 innings. “It’s never been too much of an obstacle,” Smith told NCAA.com 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.”
Vavra (below) was a junior infielder for Valparaiso this past season. He suffered a serious eye injury when he was just 3 years old and injured the eye again when he was 10, losing 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 the Horizon League champion and NCAA participant Crusaders. “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 CollegeBaseballInsider.com in March. “I don’t see it as a disability.”
“We continue to be amazed at the selflessness, determination and resolve of these special competitors,” said Phil Stanton, co-founder of CollegeBaseballInsider.com. “You can’t help but pull for them both on and off the field.”
A special mention goes to Monmouth batboy Ty Godfrey. The high school sophomore was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor when he was seven years old. Godfrey was teamed 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 Lakewood BlueClaws.
Other finalists for the 2012 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award included Hunter Brister of Western Carolina, Mike Danaher of Binghamton, San Francisco coach Nino Giarratano and Colby Wren of Georgia Tech. Finalists were chosen by the staff of CollegeBaseballInsider.com and Tom Walter, for whom the award is named.
CollegeBaseballInsider.com just completed its 11th season with daily free coverage of NCAA Division I college baseball, including scores, schedules, composite poll, journals, features and notes.
2011 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award winners
Tom Walter, Wake Forest (right)
Cory Hahn, Arizona State
Johnathan Taylor, Georgia
Bayler Teal, South Carolina