Three Inducted into Baseball Wall of Fame
STATESBORO, Ga. The Georgia Southern Baseball program inducted three former standouts into the Mason Clements Wall of Fame. Craig Cooper, Rob Fitzpatrick and Jeff Shireman officially joined the group on Saturday morning (Feb. 21) as nearly 100 people were in attendance. The ceremony was part of Alumni Weekend for Eagle Baseball.
According to head coach Rodney Hennon, “We have had a great turnout. It’s always good to see alumni come back. We have former players from various years return and that’s good to see. The weather so far has been great and I think everyone has had a lot of fun.”
Jack Stallings, the all-time winningest coach in Georgia Southern history, coached all three players and introduced the trio.
“They were not only good ball players but good people. They did their homework and stayed in touch with people in school. It makes you appreciate college athletics and people having an opportunity to get an education as well as playing a sport. It’s very emotional for me.”
Cooper led all of Division I driving in 94 runs during his senior year. He had a large turnout to watch him get inducted.
“First of all the fact I had literally about 20 people come down here friends and family specifically for me that alone means the world to me. That’s the reason I was able to accomplish so much down here, that and Jack Stallings is an unbelievable teacher, not only in baseball but maker of young men who would go out in the world and accomplish things if they’re willing to put in the hard work,” said Cooper.
Finishing his career as one of the top home run hitters in program history, Cooper has a special memory with a bat.
“One of my favorites was I had an old bat. I said it was dead and I called up my dad and said, Dad I got a dead bat. I haven’t hit a home run in (I think it was about) 10 games. He said Well alright I guess we’ll spend the money and buy you another one.’ because Georgia Southern at that time wasn’t buying me any bats. So I go and buy a bat and then proceed to hit six home runs the next two days. That was one of the million memories that you take with you and live the rest of your life thinking back on.”
During Fitzpatrick’s senior year he helped the Eagles win the Wichita Regional and advance to the 1990 College World Series.
“This is really exciting. Georgia Southern brings back a lot of memories, I had a lot of good times here. It’s nice for me and my family, nice to come back and get an opportunity to see all the people I had a chance to play with,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s been a long time, almost going on 20 years. I just really enjoyed the time I had with those guys and getting back to see them again was fun.”
The trip to Omaha certainly stands out in his mind.
“Playing in the College World Series in 1990 was just a special year. It was one of those times when everything fell into place. We made a good run and won that regional tournament in Wichita,” said Fitzpatrick. “Looking back at the guys we had on the team with (Joey) Hamilton, (Scott) Ryder, Todd Greene and all those guys. It was a magical type year. Anytime you can win 50 games in a year is pretty good.”
Shireman twice earned All-TAAC honors and was named as the league’s Player of the Year’ in 1988.
“It’s a great honor to see those names on the wall and be a part of that. We were all here for the same reason, a lot of it was to better ourselves to have a chance to go on and play pro ball,” said Shireman. “I played with a lot of great players and it’s a special treat for me to have my name put up on the wall.”
When asked about his favorite memory of his playing days Shireman told of a popular story that players during his time also fondly remember.
“There’s too many of them (memories), but we have told a lot of stories. The one that sticks out in everyone’s mind was when the bus broke down I think my freshman year (going to Florida State). We wound up fixing the bus and we got back on the highway. That’s the one everyone remembers.”
2009 Mason Clements Wall of Fame Inductees
CRAIG COOPER: Cooper lettered from 1983-86... drafted following the 1986 season in which he earned All-America honors by the Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America... named Trans America Atlantic Conference Player of the Year’ in 1986 and Tournament Most Valuable Player’ in 1985... his 26 home runs during the ’86 season remains tied for second place among the Eagles Top 10’ leaders... Cooper drove in a nation-leading 94 runs that year, which still stands as the season record... also tied for third with 190 total bases... still today stands ninth all-time with 43 career home runs.
ROB FITZPATRICK: Fitzpatrick was a four-year letterwinner from 1987-90... drafted following the 1990 season... earned All-Region and All-America honors by the Baseball Coaches Association and Sporting News his senior year... helped the Eagles advance to the 1990 College World Series... hit a grand slam in the fifth inning against South Alabama in the 6-5 win to advance to the CWS... hit a solo home run in the 13th inning to break a 2-all tie as the Eagles defeated host Wichita State in the opening round 4-2... two-time All-Trans America Atlantic Conference honors... inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletic Department Hall of Fame in 2002... tied for ninth all-time with 254 hits... ranks seventh among the career leaders with 46 home runs and 64 stolen bases, and sixth with 441 total bases.
JEFF SHIREMAN: Shireman was a four-year letterwinner from 1985-88... a two-time All-Trans America Athletic Conference pick at shortstop and was named TAAC Player of the Year’... earned All-Region honors his senior year by the Baseball Coaches Association... helped the Eagles advance to the 1987 NCAA Regionals as they won two games in the Atlantic Region... drafted following his senior year... still ranks fifth in career hits with 290, third in runs scored (203) and walks (146), tied for second in doubles (61) and tied for sixth all-time with 229 games played... recorded a 23-game hitting streak during his senior year in 1988.
- Category: Baseball
- Published on Saturday, 21 February 2009 00:11