SPRING VALLEY, WI - When I finally got the urge to type up the season ending rumblings about ten minutes ago, I didn't realize that it was exactly one month since our 2019 season ended. It ended earlier than we had expected, earlier than we had hoped. However, such is life and such is baseball. Things, quite often it seems, don't always go your way. They don't always go the way you plan or hope. That is what makes life, more specifically, baseball such a beautiful thing when it does go as you hope; or even unexpectedly in a good way, of course.
One could make the case that anytime a season does not end in a championship, it is a total disappointment. I can totally buy into that. Five years ago, I would have felt that way and there would be no one that could convince me otherwise. Maybe it is age, maybe it is life experiences, maturity, perspective, whatever. At this point in life, as soon as I left the ballpark on that Saturday afternoon a month ago, I just couldn't bring myself to feel that way. Our season wasn't a total disappointment. It wasn't a failure. Would we have liked to play three games the following weekend and end it with hoisting the WBA trophy? Of course, or as the kids say nowadays, "obvi." But this season was a unique one.
We started the SCVBL season 3-4, and ended 11-7, good enough for 4th in the league behind three damn good baseball teams. For the second consecutive season, we qualified for the WBA state tournament; the third time in the last four seasons. This is a far cry from where we were just a handful of seasons ago, where we, well, we sucked. We were terrible. It wasn't all for a lack of talent, although we are much more talented now than we were say six or seven seasons ago. It was because we were new, and all of us had no idea what we were doing. Sometimes, I am sure guys still feel that way, but they do a much better job of hiding that and BS'ing their way through things. Building a baseball team takes time, it takes experience, it takes improvement, it takes commitment. It is truly a process.
As a few of our guys said, this season was a "transitional" year for our team. A number of guys graduated from college and began their big boy jobs. We had a few Hawks get married this last spring & summer, and had another get married just this last weekend (congrats Mr. & Mrs. Plotsky!). Other guys had life events such as graduating high school & getting ready for college, vacations, unfortunate injuries, etc. We aren't the only team that has to deal with such obstables, but for us specifically, it was the first season where we had some real adversity to face; and I thought our guys handled it as well as they could have. Was it trying at times? Of course, but every guy on this team busted their ass, stayed committed to the team, and got it done when they were needed. Guys were put in different spots than normal, guys were asked to do things they hadn't been asked to before, it did not matter. They did it, and did it well. For that, I commend them and that is what makes our group of guys a special group.
We keep a lot of our conversations, jokes, team banter, news, etc. within our walls. Obviously there are some people that are "fortunate" (tongue in cheek) enough to get wind of those "jokes" or banter, information, etc. Lucky them, right? Anyway - where I want to go with this is in our team huddle following our 5-4 loss to Marshfield. We keep most things in house, but I have no problem sharing what I told our guys in that huddle. I told them I love each and every one of them like family. Like a brother. That I am so proud to get to "lead" them through the beautiful game of baseball, and how I cherish every moment I have with them during those four-to-five months of the season. They truly are the best months of my year, for reasons on and off the field. To ask them to give so much, to sacrifice so much to play a game where the only compensation is individual pride, or a round of beers on the Hawks tab. For them to want to be a part of the Spring Valley Hawks, I am forever grateful.
With that said, the fans have finally had their voices heard and the results are in for the 2019 season awards. Cue the drum roll, but here.......they......are.....
Offensive MVP: This award came down to a few guys, but ultimately, the fans decided to give it to Scott Sayles. Captain Sayles. Mr. C. That "C" could stand for a number of things, and probably the most fitting would be consistency. This was Sayles's 5th season with the Hawks, and he has developed himself into one of the best hitters in our league. He has hit in a number of different spots in our lineup, mostly 3rd, but he was moved to the leadoff spot about midway through this season and it worked out brilliantly. Sayles hit .365 in the leadoff spot, and ended the season hitting above .330 for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Sayles also led the team in total bases, hits, and was second on the team in extra base hits.
Cy Young: This one may be a bit of a surprise, not because of who the fans voted for, but because for the first time in three seasons, it goes to someone not named Brandon Walczak. While most pitchers would gladly take a season such as Walczak's, he wouldn't. That is what makes him so good, and someone who has been our horse for the last three years. However, this season's team Cy Young award goes to Casey Ryan. After putting together an all-conference season in the WIAC, Ryan carried it over to the Hawks and had a solid summer season as well. A solid sub 3.30 ERA, a team leading 49.1 innings, tied for the team lead in wins, and nearly 1.5 strikeouts per inning, Ryan was a solid choice for this award.
Defensive Player of the Year: This one was an easy one. While defense was solid and consistent throughout the season, the most solid and consistent of those was catcher Zach Hunter. The guy is an absolute stud behind the dish. Pitchers love throwing to him, umpires love umpiring with him behind the plate, and he has become an invaluable player for this team. We have a few guys that our pitchers are comfortable with behind the plate, which is something not a lot of teams get to say. Hunter calls a good game, does a fantastic job of framing & blocking pitches, and controls the running game well enough with his arm. A converted infielder with a strong work ethic, it is no surprise that "Z" has become one of the best catchers in our league.
Newcomer of the Year: Another easy one. Truthfully, only a handful of other guys over the years could be in the conversation of players who made such an immediate impact as the recipient of this award did. This one goes to Derek Myer, who immediately became a presence for this team in the field and the lineup. Taking over the shortstop position for the departed (short term, hopefully) Joey Helmer, Myer stepped right in and made an impact. He was quickly moved to the cleanup spot in the lineup, and ran with it. While he had a decorated high school career, including being a conference player of the year and participating in the state all-star games, it can still be adjustment for most guys going to a wood bat league, playing against older competition (some twice your age!). Myer never wavered in that, hitting .328 on the season while walking more than he struck out and finishing third on the team in RBI.
Most Improved Player of the Year: There were a few different guys that had better seasons in 2019 than they had before, but none more impactful than Zac Balsiger. One of the remaining OG Hawks, Balsiger came out of the gate fast and had a solid season. Asked to tackle a number of different positions in the field, he provided consistency in the field and a power presence at the plate; as shown by his team leading 12 doubles and 14 extra base hits. He was also 2nd on the team in RBI, and third on the team in hits and walks. A calm, business like approach that Balsiger brings to this team and cannot be overstated how important that is.
Breakout Player of the Year: This one goes to Taylor Prey. Prey, getting more opportunities at the plate and on the mound in 2019, took advantage of those opportunities and had a solid season for the Hawks. Prey posted career bests both on the mound and at the plate, which proved important to the team during different times of need. A guy that truly loves baseball and wants to help the team, this award is well deserved for the big feller we proudly call "TP."
Teammate of the Year: Frankly, this one could go to a number of guys. While some teams may think we have a bunch of jerks, guys that love to chirp (we do), or guys that like act like idiots (we do), all of our guys are great guys. Most of the banter, the stuff teams hear from our dugout are directed at their teammates. Great dudes, great teammates. Given the circumstances and obstacles that this one individual faced this season, he still showed up to nearly every game, took on a number of roles (including becoming the unofficial official pitching coach although he was fired after the game we do not talk about and subsequently rehired), and provided another bright baseball mind in a dugout full of questionable ones. Kyle Duex receives this award for the 2019 season. The commitment he gave, his attitude, and willingness to help with a number of different things, it made this decision for the fans an easy one.
Well, that is it. The last official rumblings for the 2019 season. We appreciate you reading, we appreciate your support, and we appreciate your interest in Hawks baseball. Town teams end up folding for a number of different reasons, one being lack of support. We don't face that issue, and for that we are forever grateful. Our 2020 season will be the 10th official season of Hawks baseball since we resurrected town baseball in The Valley, and we cannot wait. We look forward to having a terrific season. In closing, I personally want to say thank you to my wife, to the girlfriends, wives, and families of all of our players, our players, to our sponsors and donors, the umpires that task themselves with dealing with town baseball players, to the other individuals who help the Hawks out on a regular basis. You guys are the bloodline of our baseball club, our baseball family, and I am forever thankful.
Until April 2020...#hawksnation