The Lead-Off Club honored current baseball stars Monday, and simultaneously honored influential members of the Springfield baseball community’s past.
The club honored area seniors and awarded its postseason honors, which have been renamed this year in remembrance of the dignitaries.
Awards are named for former Missouri State University and Glendale pitcher Dave Dickensheet, who died of cancer in 1991; Howard Bell, a former Parkview and MSU standout, who coached at Glendale and died of ALS in March; and Steve Brewer, a former Hillcrest player and Lead-Off Club organizer, who died in March.
The tributes seemed to resonate with the players. Parkview’s Andrew Kendrick said he followed Bell’s fight with ALS closely over the past year.
“I definitely knew who he was, and enjoyed playing against him for three years,” said Kendrick, who was given the Howard Bell Award as the city’s top senior offensive player. “What he went through, he was just an amazing guy. I’m really honored.”
The Lindenwood University signee hit .431 with seven home runs for Parkview, which shared the Ozark Conference title with Kickapoo and Glendale. It was the second straight conference title for Parkview, which had previously not won the league since 1969.
The biggest award went to Glendale’s Will Blount. The senior hit .468 with 37 hits for the co-Ozark Conference champions, and was presented with the Steve Brewer Award as the city’s most valuable senior player.
“I was just shocked (when I heard), I knew there was a lot of great players in the city,” said Blount, who moved to Springfield from Nixa after his sophomore year. “I just felt like I was a lot more mentally prepared coming into the games. I didn’t worry about things I couldn’t control, I just hit it.”
Parkview’s Mitch Carriger and Glendale’s Evan Payne shared the Dave Dickensheet Award as the city’s top pitchers. Carriger went 3-3 with a 2.55 earned-run average, and Payne was 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA.
Payne had strong outings in starts against Parkview, Kickapoo and Hillcrest this spring. The top-seeded Falcons lost in the district semifinal to Waynesville.
“It was disappointing in the end, but we still had a good year,” Payne said.
Despite the championship season for three city programs, each of the five Springfield Public Schools teams represented in the Lead-Off Club were bounced last week in district tournaments. Carriger, the Parkview ace, said he ran out of gas down the stretch.
“Toward the end of the year, I was getting tired and the year was closing down,” Carriger said. “But we fought back against the other teams in the conference and ended up getting a share of (the OC).”
Kickapoo finished a conference game Friday against Joplin with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory to earn the share. The game was continued after a weather postponement from earlier in the month.