Lubbock’s First Pitch Luncheon signaled the beginning of baseball season this past weekend. LCU Coach Nathan Blackwood, along with Texas Tech coaches and area high school coaches, provided area baseball fans a glimpse inside the 2014 baseball season.
“We are ready to get going. Our guys are tired of playing against each other,” says Coach Blackwood. “I think our returners on the offensive side are our biggest strength. Pitching depth is something we lacked in the past, but this year we have a lot of guys to choose from.”
As LCU is in the midst of transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II, Coach Blackwood says he is ready to spend less time on office-work and paper-work and finally get on the field and play.
“This is a new season for us as far as transitions and playing new opponents,” says Coach Blackwood. “We are trying to get these new relationships set up. It’s a big weekend for us over all.”
This transition also means there are no post-season opportunities to anticipate for the next couple of years. When asked how Coach Blackwood motivates his players to be their best, he says, “Make a statement.”
The LCU baseball team has certainly made a statement so far as the Lubbock community is becoming nationally recognized as a baseball community. Coach Blackwood says most collegiate baseball personnel across the country know about LCU, and having Lubbock recognized as a baseball town has been great for recruitment and great for the economy.
The luncheon was hosted by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, and their key-note speaker was Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers. This is the first year the First Pitch Luncheon has involved high school, collegiate, and professional baseball teams.
Lubbock baseball expert and legend, Coach Larry Hays was at the luncheon and chimed in, “This event is great. We’ve had this for college teams for a while now, but to have the high school coaches and tie it in with major league baseball, it gives you the whole spectrum of baseball in Lubbock. From little league all the way up to big leagues with the Rangers.”
Coronado High School baseball coach and LCU alum, Gary Hicks, was also at the luncheon. He began playing for LCU in 1979 and played in the NAIA National Championship game his senior year.
“Coach Hays shaped my future,” says Coach Hicks. “He made baseball fun. When I got here it became a family and we are still a family. So many of the players I played with at LCU are coaches now. You can tell Coach Hays had a big impact on what we do.”
Coach Hicks watches LCU play ball every chance he gets, and he is currently proud to have one of his Coronado players, Brendon Johnson, play for LCU.
The Chaps baseball season began with a 2-1 split last Saturday in a triple-header against Adams State University.