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Bobby Randall reflects on season with AIA

XENIA, OH – Two weeks after the Xenia Scouts’ 2014 Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League baseball season ended, former Major League player and 2014 Scouts manager Bobby Randall fielded questions from sports editor John Bombatch on the team’s exciting season. The franchise hosted the GLSCL All-Star Game, held a scouting combine for several Major League scouts, and finished third in the regular season out of nine teams with a 21-19 record.

QUESTION: What would you say were some of the best parts of the Xenia Scouts 2014 season for you as the team’s manager?

ANSWER: The best parts were the men I worked with and the players I coached. (General Manager) John Henschen took care of all the details wonderfully to allow us to work with the team, and (Assistant Coach) Matt Richter was really the glue handling all the pitching responsibilities, which was our biggest challenge. And he worked a miracle since we were so shorthanded pitching wise. (Assistant Coach) Taylor Hargrove was a tremendous servant to fill in all the gaps needed and do it so well. Both Matt and Taylor threw batting practice practically every day, which was a load since we had so many hitters.

I always am uplifted by the spiritual values we are organized by and put into practice. These were our foundation of success from the staff to the players.

One of the other highlights was a five-game stretch where we played complete, excellent baseball, which gave us a standard to keep striving for. The other was a losing streak of seven or eight games where we kept battling to win. Sometimes it feels like you will never lose and other times you feel as if you will never win.

Q: You had said early on in the season that you weren’t sure what to expect from the players, but that you saw how hard they were willing to work to improve over their summer. Can you give an example or two of how hard some of the players worked?

A: There are not many things that can be controlled, but three of them are: 1. ATTITUDE 2. PREPARATION 3. EFFORT. Our coaches and players were great examples of all three of these and contributed to our winning season. I cannot pick out one or two players, because it was a total effort by everyone. One of our themes was “A HARD 90 EVERY TIME.”

Q: You’ve coached at the college and professional levels of the sport. Does the 2014 Xenia Scouts team have any similarities to other teams you’ve coached?

A: This year’s team was certainly one to remember for their relentless effort and their excellent attitude. This is the first time in my coaching career that we played two lineups and alternated them daily. Rarely was there anyone pouting because they were not in the lineup every day. Also, we used pinch hitters quite often, and they learned to accept being pinch hit for. We did develop a servant attitude.

Q: The team slowly began to grow its fan base as the season wore on. Would you like to say anything to the fans who did come out to watch the team play?

A: Thanks to the fans who supported us. What a joy when we won our last (home) game on a walk off hit. The reaction from our fans just added to it.

Q: What is it like to work for a sports institution such as Athletes In Action, and what was that experience like for you?

A: I truly enjoy coaching for AIA, because of their values, It is probably the only place I would coach. Each time I have coached for AIA, I have come away knowing that eternal values have been emphasized and imparted to the young men. Life changing. This Christ-centered approach makes the baseball so enjoyable.

Q: How will you remember the 2014 Xenia Scouts team?

A: I will remember the coaches and players of this Summer’s team fondly, because of their heart and effort. No one ever gave up or gave in. It was a special bond with everyone and we had a lot of fun as well.

Q: You spent the Summer in Xenia. What were some of your favorite experiences while being here, and what are your thoughts of this area?

A: Our family loved Xenia. The small-town atmosphere and the people we met, and the church we attended. One of the young ladies who works for AIA, Katie Campbell, was a friend from my time at the University of Kansas. She lived across the street from us. It was great to see her again. And we loved the AIA campus and the beautiful field where we played our home games.

Q: The summer season is over. What do you do when you’re not managing the Xenia Scouts?

A: I am an adjunct instructor on Economics and Statistics at Manhattan Christian College in Manhattan, Kansas.

Q: Will you be returning as the Scouts’ manager next season? If not, what are your plans for the future?

A: Coaching in the summer is a big commitment for me and my family so there are two parts to that question: First, to be asked to do it again. Often, with the travel, I thought a younger coach could be a big advantage in a lot of ways. And second, if it is good for my family, that’s always my first consideration.

(John Bombatch is sports editor for Greene County Newspapers.)

www.xeniagazette.com

Radack honored by Baseball America

radackCONWAY, Ark. – Hendrix College junior outfielder Collin Radack was named to Baseball America’s Top 10 and PerfectGame.org’s Top 30 Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Prospect List. The Austin, Texas native ranked eighth on Baseball America’s list and 27th on PerfectGame’s. He was the only non-NCAA Division I player to be featured.

Pat Hickey of Baseball America says “Radack is a diamond in the rough at Division III Hendrix (Ark.). He proved himself against mostly D-I competition this summer, hitting .393/.429/.563 in 112 at-bats. He has an athletic frame at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and has plenty of room to add strength. His 6.7-second time in the 60 at the scouting combine makes him a slightly above-average runner. As the season progressed, Radack showed considerable improvement in adding loft to his swing, though it has yet to translate into game action. A line-drive hitter, most of his doubles came to the pull side. Defensively, he may have to move to a corner outfield position unless he can improve his routes in center.”

Radack spent the summer playing for the Xenia Scouts, a team sponsored by Athletes in Action in Ohio. He ended the season hitting .393, ranking third in the Great Lakes League, and was tied for fifth with 13 doubles. He also recorded two home runs, 19 RBI and six stolen bases in 29 games, earning All-GLSCL First Team honors. He was also selected to play in the league’s All-Star Game.

As a sophomore at Hendrix, Radack earned All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference First Team honors for the second consecutive year, as he hit .403 with 45 RBI, 64 hits, 39 runs, 12 doubles, four triples, two homers and 13 steals.

He ranks third in Warrior history with a .380 career batting average.

Radack will once again compete for Athletes in Action in Alaska with the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks.

article taken from the Hendrix University Athletic Website: www.hendrixwarriors.com

Ben Alison named NAIA Player of the Week

KANSAS CITY, MO – AIA New York Alum Ben Alison of MidAmerica Nazarene has been tabbed National Baseball Player of the Week, the national office announced Tuesday. Alison was selected based on his performance from April 16 – 22 and was chosen out of a pool of conference/independent/unaffiliated groupings.

Alison, a native of Ankeny, Iowa, hit .500 (7-for-14) with four home runs, seven runs scored and 15 RBIs to lead the Pioneers to a pair of doubleheader sweeps against Culver-Stockton (Mo.) on April 18 and Graceland (Iowa) on April 21. In the victories against Graceland, the senior right fielder went 3-for-5 with two home runs and a season-high tying seven RBIs in game one before going 2-for-3, including a home run and four RBIs, in game two.

On the year, Alison ranks fifth nationally with a program single-season record 15 home runs, while also appearing amongst the top 20 in RBIs with 53. Additionally, he leads the team with a .721 slugging percentage, while ranking second in stolen bases (20) and third in batting average (.350). Alison is the only player in the NAIA with at least 15 home runs and 20 steals this season.

Brown shares about a summer with AIA

brownaiaMOUNT VERNON, OH – The past two months have been an amazing journey that has been such a powerful experience for me in my life. Just one week after our season ended at MVNU in pool play at the NCCAA national tournament, I set out on May 28th from my home in Westerville, Ohio for a six-hour car drive to upstate New York to a small town called Alfred. Feelings of apprehension and nerves were hitting me hard with each mile. This was going to be the longest I had been away from home by myself in my entire life. I was going to be staying with a host family that I had never met, and I was going to be playing in a highly competitive collegiate league with players from all over the United States. I was excited for the challenge athletically and spiritually. The prospect of playing with a Christian organization called Athletes in Action was very attractive for me, but I did not know how great the summer would actually turn out to be.As I stand on the other side of the journey, I look back and can honestly say this was one of the best summers of my life. All my feelings of apprehension were washed away day by day. My host family turned out to be the perfect fit. I could not have asked for a better situation, I had four host siblings who were all a blast to be with and my roommate was an outfielder from Chicago with a great sense of humor that matched mine perfectly. My host mom took great care of me and my roommate, packing us lunches to take with us on trips, and my host dad was so supportive at all of our games. The Ryan family is an amazing group of people that I feel blessed to have been able to stay with.

Playing with Athletes in Action was the best decision I could have made for the summer. I gained 23 great friends from all over the country. We participated in daily group Bible Studies hearing from three separate chaplains from Athletes in Action staff on the campuses of Colorado State, UCLA, and Ball State. Over the course of the summer, we participated in numerous community service projects as well as visiting a homeless shelter in Rochester to serve food. We participated in prison ministry playing softball against the inmates at a local prison. We visited a nursing home and shared a meal with people who normally do not receive visits from even their families. The highlight of our ministry by far, though, was the opportunity to share the Gospel with the opposing teams in the league. We shared the AIA principles that were life changing for me as an athlete

Our team name was the Alfred Thunder and we were in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL). The NYCBL is one of eight leagues that make up the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball. It is partially funded by Major League Baseball and is a tool for development and scouting for amateur baseball players. Within the NYCBL, there are two divisions – East and West. The Alfred Thunder participated in the West Division. The schedule consisted of 44 games within a two-month span. Every day, we would play at 7 p.m. We would be picked up sometime in the early afternoon and we would head to our home church to have discipleship together.

On the mound, I had a very successful summer. On the first day of training camp, the pitchers were standing in one spot and you could say that I was the “Roy Oswalt”of the staff. I was the smallest pitcher of the staff standing at 6-1. The rest of the pitchers were in the range of 6-3 to 6-6. Despite my disadvantage in physique I tied for the team lead in appearances with 13, complete games with 2, led the team in strikeouts with 30 in 34 innings pitched, and I was selected to the NYCBL West Division All-Star Team.

Playing in the NYCBL was a great experience for me and without a doubt helped me grow as a pitcher. I am so thankful for the success I had this summer, but more importantly I grew immensely in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The discipleships with the team were by far the best part of the experience for me. One thing that I gained from this experience was the realization that God is the only thing that will satisfy the desires of my heart. I had always agreed with that statement intellectually, but I think this summer was the first time that all my inmost being realized the truth in that. God is enough, God is enough to satisfy the desires of my heart, and nothing else will ever come close. The game of baseball may fail me, my abilities on the field may fail me, but He will never fail me. He is the solid rock on which I stand. I am excited to head back to Mount Vernon to start another championship run with the Cougars in a new conference. We’ll all be back on campus in no time!

Cunniff finds success with AIA Baseball

Cayden CunniffMARSHALL, Texas (8/30/11) – East Texas Baptist University sophomore catcher Cayden Cunniff wanted to stay busy this summer and wasn’t necessarily looking forward to leaving the quiet, peaceful, Christian-based atmosphere at ETBU. Ideally, he wanted to stay busy with something that would both benefit his baseball career and his spiritual life, and going home for the summer wasn’t exactly what he felt like doing.

That restlessness, along with an early-season suggestion by Tigers head coach Sam Blackmon, led Cunniff to a season with the Alfred Thunder, in upstate New York, as part of Athletes in Action’s summer baseball league. Now that he’s back at ETBU, Cunniff definitely feels the experience was exactly what he was looking for.

“I was kind of praying…I struggle a little more at home, and it’s easier here to do the right things with a Christian environment,” said Cunniff, a native of Joshua, Texas. “I was kind of worried about the summer. Even though I was kind of wanting to go home I knew that sometimes for me I struggle with some influences there so a couple of weeks after I started praying about that I got this opportunity.”

Blackmon has encouraged other Tigers to pursue summer ball with Athletes in Action, including one of Cunniff’s senior teammates last season, Ryan Yezak. He felt that Cunniff would be a great fit and that the experience would benefit his two-year catcher both on and off the field.

“I believe Athletes in Action helps develop players with Christian leadership skills,” Blackmon said. “For Cayden and for our program I felt that Cayden being involved in that setting this summer would only enhance that in him as a leader. A few weeks into it, we visited and you could just tell the difference in his confidence level not only from playing but from the confidence level of being a Christian leader. I can already tell the difference from him being away this summer.”

The baseball part of the experience, at least at the start, was intimidating. Although Blackmon had stressed to Cunniff that his baseball skills would work fine with Athletes in Action, Cunniff had to prove it to himself.

“I was a little intimidated at first, when I first got there,” he said. “At training camp everyone seemed like they were a foot taller than me. It was good competition but I saw that it wasn’t really overpowering. I definitely had to be at the top of my game to compete but I liked the challenge and knew it was going to make me a better player.”

Cunniff was one of two catchers on the Thunder roster, and he and Matt O’Neill, of Avernia University, split time throughout most of the season. When O’Neill sustained an injury late in the summer, however, Cunniff became the full-time catcher the rest of the way.

“Overall I was pleased with the way I played and I got the chance to catch a lot of innings,” he said. “I’ve just always wanted to catch, I enjoy the defensive part of it a lot and to me as a defensive catcher it’s all about keeping mistakes to a minimum. I practice blocking and stuff every day and my goal is to just get better at everything, and playing this summer allowed me to do that against good competition.”

What makes Athletes in Action a little different than other summer collegiate organizations is the off-the-field spiritual emphasis. Cunniff said the Thunder took part in daily devotional sessions and also had some mission-type activities, such as playing a softball game against a group of prisoners at a state prison. During this experience he said the players were able to share the Gospel with inmates.

“It was a really cool experience, and since I’m a Criminal Justice major it just kind of fit for me,” Cunniff said. “Having that opportunity to share the Gospel with people in need was a cool thing.”

Cunniff has already been invited back to play in the league, and he is looking forward to the opportunity. Blackmon, from a coaching standpoint, can already see the growth and maturity in his young catcher.

“Cayden has had an impact on our program since he arrived as a freshman,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to watch him mature into not only a great baseball player, but also a strong Christian leader as well. He is very dedicated to his academic studies and the weight room. He brings everyone that is around him to a higher level.”

Donaldson named A’s starting 3B

XENIA, OH – Athletes in Action Alaska (Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks) Alum Josh Donaldson opened up the 2012 season in Japan as the Oakland Athletics’ starting third basemen. Donaldson, who played with AIA  in 2005, is a graduate of Auburn University. A converted catcher, Donaldson is making his second appearence at the big league level. He was called up in 2010 as a catcher for the A’s where he received 32 at bats in his 14 games with Oakland. On May 1, 2010 he got his first major league hit, which also happened to be a 2 run homerun.

Donaldson was named to the All Alaska Baseball League team for AIA in 2005 and was drafted in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.