It was a night to celebrate the successes of the Laurier Men’s Baseball program. The Third Annual Laurier Baseball Recognition Banquet took place on Sunday November 30th at the Senate and Board Chamber on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University. There were over 70 people in attendance and the evening was a great success.
Assistant Coach Dennis Schooley was the MC for the evening and did a great job entertaining the crowd with his jokes and video clips.
The first award presentation of the evening was made by former Golden Hawk Assistant Coach Bob Elliot. Elliott presented the graduating athletes with a plaqued photo of themselves. The graduating players included SS Damien Eccleton, 1B Curtis Young and LHP Tim Sinyard. All three players made major contributions to the program over the course of their four year careers and all were named OUA All-Stars at least once: Eccleton in 2007, Young in 2006 and 2007 and Sinyard in 2008. These three players were part of an extremely talented freshmen class in 2005 and Laurier has been lucky to have these players as part of the program. The other members of that strong 2005 class are returning for a fifth year. These graduating players will be missed and the coaching staff wishes to thank them for all they’ve done to improve the program.
The next group of players to be recognized were the 2008 OUA All-Stars. The All-Stars were presented with a certificate from the OUA and a purple and gold commemorative bat courtesy of KR-3. This year’s All-Stars include: SS Scott Mahn, C Chris Pittaway and 3B Ryan Panas on the First Team with LHP Tim Sinyard on the Second Team. In addition, Panas was also chosen as the OUA Rookie of the Year.
Mahn was selected to the First Team for an OUA record third consecutive year and each time the selection has been at a different position. After filling in for the injured Jordan Bilkas at third base in 2006 and earning a spot on the All-Star Team, Mahn moved to second base in 2007 and served as the team’s lead-off hitter. Mahn started 2008 as the team’s second baseman, but an injury to double –play partner Damien Eccleton forced a move to SS for Mahn and he didn’t disappoint, garnering his third consecutive First team All-Star appearance. Mahn beat out 2007 OUA Most Valuable Hitter and good friend, Mike Glinka of Waterloo, for the top honours at SS in 2008. Mahn is one of the best lead-off hitters in the OUA and was the sparkplug of the Golden Hawk offense.
Panas earns his All-Star recognition in his first year with the program. A graduate of the Toronto Mets organization, Panas had a terrific freshmen campaign and led all OUA Rookies in batting average and hits. He also played well defensively at the ‘hot corner’ for the Hawks. Laurier is in great shape with Panas at 3B for years to come. Pittaway earns his second all-star award (2nd team in 2006) in 2008. This is a much deserved selection as Pittaway was a warrior for the Golden Hawks in 2008. He caught the majority of the team’s games and played hurt for a good chunk of the season. Always willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win; Pittaway is a true team player. Sinyard earned All-Star recognition in his final year with the Hawks. Sinyard split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen in 2008 and provided a steady veteran presence with the young Laurier pitching staff. Congratulations to all the 2008 All-Stars.
The final set of Awards was presented by Head Coach SCOTT BALLANTYNE and included the following: Most Improved Player, Ultimate Team Player Award, Most Dedicated Player, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie Pitcher of the Year, Rookie Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year.
And the winners were:
Most Improved Player – RP Wes Van Luven – Van Luven made 4 appearances in relief in 2008 and was brilliant in all 4. He picked up 2 wins and provided some very valuable innings out of the bullpen. Van Luven was a ‘red shirt freshman’ in 2007 and proved that he belonged in 2008 with his solid performances.
Ultimate Team Player Award – C Chris Pittaway – Pittway was a warrior for the Hawks in 2008 and is a repeat winner of this award. He caught the majority of the games for the Hawks and did so with a series of injuries throughout the year. He always provided solid leadership and was one of the players that the younger players look up to. No matter the situation, the coaching staff could always count on Pittway to put the team ahead of himself.
Most Dedicated Player – 1B Curtis Young – This is a new award for 2008 and Young is a very deserving recipient. From the minute Curtis stepped foot on the Laurier ball field, he has been dedicated to improving the program and doing whatever it takes to help out, both on and off the field. Curtis has a passion for the game that is refreshing to see and this award recognizes his desire and dedication.
Comeback Player of the Year – SS Damien Eccleton – This is also a new award for 2008 and Eccleton fits the bill. Damien fouled a pitch off his foot in the third game of the season and broke a bone in his foot. He was projected to miss the rest of the season; however he worked hard and suited up for the final 3 games of the regular season to play through the pain. In the 5 games that Eccleton played the team was 3-2 and he contributed both defensively and offensively to that record. It took a lot of guts to come back from a broken foot and for that, Damien deserves to be recognized.
Rookie Pitcher of the Year – Josh Wood – Wood joined the program in 2008 out of the Toronto Mets organization and lived up the hype in his first season. Wood started five games as a freshman for the Hawks and kept his team in every start that he made. He is a tough lefty who changes speed well and keeps the ball down. Laurier is lucky to have a pitcher like Wood in the program and look forward to many solid years ahead.
Rookie Player of the Year – 3B Ryan Panas – Not only did Panas capture the Laurier Rookie of the Year Award, but he was also named the first ever OUA Rookie of the Year. Panas had an outstanding freshman campaign and led all OUA freshmen in hits and batting average. He is a huge part of the Laurier offense and will be counted on to produce runs in the years to come.
Pitcher of the Year – Jack Malone – Malone was the workhorse of the Laurier pitching staff in 2008. He logged over 36 innings and provided his team with a chance to win each and every time he took to the mound. The highlight of his season came in a 1-0, one hit shutout vs. Brock. Malone outdueled Brock ace Jordan Prosper and was simply unhittable on the evening. Malone made huge strides in his second year with the program and is definitely deserving of this honour.
Player of the Year – INF Scott Mahn – For the second year in a row, the team’s lead-off hitter is the 2008 winner of the Most Valuable Player Award. Mahn was a sparkplug at the top of the order and played solid defence at shortstop in place of the injured Eccleton for the Hawks. Mahn’s leadership and hustle are second to none and he finished third in the league in batting average and first in the league in hits. A 3-time OUA All-Star, Mahn is a very deserving repeat winner of this award.
The night also included a slide show summarizing the season and remarks from Laurier’s Head Coach, SCOTT BALLANTYNE who thanked the guests and provided some words of encouragement to the team as they prepare for 2009.
The team would like to thank everyone who donated items to the silent auction, including Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, Honsing Leung of the Toronto Blue Jays, KR-3 Bats, the Laurier Athletic Department, Bill & Jo-Anne Ballantyne and Scott & Amy Ballantyne. A very special thanks to Amy Ballantyne for all her time and effort in making the banquet a success.
The returning players have started their training regiment for the 2009 season and following the exam period, will resume their indoor sessions together to prepare to take the next step in 2009.