One of only three men to win a recognized college player of the year award twice, plus two men who led their teams to the World Series at both the collegiate and Major League levels highlight the 2015 National College Baseball Hall of Fame induction class.
“This class features players and coaches with some incredible superlatives,” said Mike Gustafson, executive director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. “There are some unique and outstanding accomplishments by the individuals in this class.”
This year’s class, which will be inducted as a part of the annual celebration of college baseball on June 28-29 in Lubbock, Texas, is headlined by Lance Berkman, who led Rice to its first College World Series appearance before embarking on a stellar Major League career; and Frank Viola, the talented left-hander who led his St John’s club to Omaha in 1980 and went on to a 15-year Major League career that included winning the 1988 American League Cy Young Award.
The switch-hitting Berkman was named National Player of the Year by the NCBWA in 1997 on the strength of a .431 batting average, 41 homers and 143 RBI. His three years at Rice saw the Owls make their first NCAA tournament appearance in 1995, and their first College World Series appearance in 1997.
Viola registered a 26-2 career record at St. John’s, leading the Redmen to Omaha in 1980 where he opened the Series with a 6-1 victory over eventual national champion Arizona. However, it was another postseason win, a 1-0 12-inning thriller in the 1981 NCAA regional over Yale and Ron Darling for which he is best remembered.
Also included in the class are Joe Arnold, a two-time NJCAA All-American pitcher at Miami-Dade who also earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 1966 NJCAA World Series; former Lubbock Christian and Texas Tech Coach Larry Hays, one of only eight coaches at any level of college baseball with 1,500 wins; Al Holland, who shattered records in his four years at North Carolina A&T; Bill Holowaty, the 3rd winningest coach in NCAA Division III history; Mike Kelly, who was the consensus national player of the year in 1990 and winner of the Golden Spikes Award in 1991; and Rick Reichardt, who won the first recognized collegiate national player of the year award in 1964.
As a junior college player at Miami-Dade, Arnold played for the legendary Demie Mainieri. He is one of only two junior college players to be twice named NJCAA All-American as well as MVP of the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. He later attended Arizona State where he won 11 games, finishing his collegiate playing career with a 40-5 record. He later enjoyed a stellar coaching career, leading Florida Southern to two NCAA Division II national championships before assuming the reins at the University of Florida, where he twice took the Gators to Omaha.
Hays coached Lubbock Christian to 695 wins and the 1983 NAIA national championship before moving across town to Texas Tech, where he assumed a program with a losing record throughout its history. In his 22 years on campus, he led the Red Raiders to 813 wins and all four of their conference championship titles, as well as their first nine NCAA tournament appearances. In 2008, he became only the 4th coach in NCAA history to win 1,500 games.
Holland rode a blazing fastball to a record-setting career in which he tossed four no-hitters and twice led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings. His microscopic ERA of 0.26 in 1975 also led the nation and is the 3rd best ERA in NCAA Division I history.
Holowaty led Eastern Connecticut State to four NCAA Division III national championships and was honored four times as the national coach of the year. His 1,404 wins trail only 2009 inductee Gordie Gillespie and 2013 inductee Don Schaly on the Division III list.
Kelly’s three years at Arizona State rank as three of the most illustrious in school history. He is on a list with 2006 inductees Robin Ventura and Brooks Kieschnick as the only NCAA Division I players to twice take home player of the year honors. He finished his career in Tempe with a .376 batting average, 46 homers and 194 RBI.
Reichardt was the first player in Big Ten history to repeat as batting champ. His 1964 batting average of .443 in Big Ten play earned him The Sporting News National Player of the Year recognition, plus All America honors from ABCA.
“Our voting committees consists of longtime college baseball media members, active and former coaches, retired umpires, past inductees, college baseball historians and in several cases they are also former players,” Gustafson said. ‘I commend them on another outstanding job.”
Tickets for the 2015 induction will be available in May on the Hall of Fame’s website at www.collegebaseballhall.org.
For more information, contact Mike Gustafson, College Baseball Hall of Fame President/CEO at email@example.com.