“An Easter Sunday Special Story To My Dad!”
By Eric Emfinger
I love my Dad! He was my Mentor for most of my early life. I was born in 1980 and that was around the same time that he started his High School Football Recruiting Service, so he was pretty busy around that time when I started playing baseball at five.
Also about that time, my Dad changed me from batting right-handed to batting left-handed. All of the Little League Umpires would tell me to move to the other side, but I would line-up on the left side, hit the plate with my bat, and tell them, that my Dad says I bat on this side.
I also will never forget my Dad bringing me home when I was nine, after my last Little League Baseball game. “Dad, when are you going to start coaching me,” I asked and I will never forget him saying: “Today!”
The next year, Dad was my Little League Baseball Coach and then became my Mentor for about the next fifteen years. Dad also took my 10-year All-Star Team to the Regional Tournament and we won the Regional Championship. From that point on, you will not believe what happened next. When I was a 12-year old Little League All-Star, my dad and Coach Willie Hill took our Quail Valley Little League All-Stars to the Texas Little League State Tournament in Waco where we came in Third. Dad taught me how two throw a knuckleball. One night, my knuckleball was unhittable and I struck out 16 batters. I think that was a Quail Valley Record.
Then when I was 13, Dad decided to start a Super Select Baseball Team. They are pretty common now, but back in 1994, there were not any others anywhere until my Dad started the First one in Houston. That 13-year old Super Select Team went to the Continental Amateur Baseball Congress (CABA) World Series in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 1994; 14-year old (CABA) World Series in Columbus, Ohio in 1995; and 15-year old (CABA) World Series in Chicago, Illinois in 1996.
We moved to Louisiana in 1997 and I missed participating in a World Series, but you won’t believe what happened in 1998, just before my senior year in High School. I was playing on a Super Select Baseball Team in Hammond, Louisiana called Bill Hood and we won the Louisiana State Championship and a berth to the National Association Baseball Federation (NABF) in Evansville, Indiana.
At the first of August, I was selected as the Tulane Baseball Camp MVP and this Award got me an invitation to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers Super Select Team in the CABA High School World Series in Euclid, Ohio. And so I was able to participate in two 1998 World Series and my Dad drove me to both World Series Tournaments.
I might add that our right fielder on the Brooklyn Select Team was named Josh Hamilton and Hamilton led our team in Homeruns and RBI’s as we went undefeated in winning the CABA World Series Championship. After the last game, my Dad drove me to Evansville, Indiana where my Bill Hood Team finished third, but don’t forget that team, because we were just warming up for the 1999 NABF World Series Championship.
Right after the CABA World Series Championship and NABF World Series, I played my Senior Year in High School, and my Covington St Paul Team won the Louisiana 4A High School State Baseball Championship.
The Defensive Play of the Game for St Paul in the State Championship Game and also the Defensive Play of the Year took place in the top of the seventh inning of our 3-3 tie game. Woodlawn had their winning run on second base with two out and their batter hit the winning single to right field, but wait. Our right fielder, Ron Allen, quickly came up with the ball and fired a perfect strike to me at first base and I then turned and fired another perfect strike to our catcher, Evan Gremillion, who tagged out the runner before he could score the winning run.
St Paul Winning Head Coach Rick Mauldin said, “that play at the plate in the top of the seventh inning was definitely the play of the game.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning, of the 4A State Championship Game, Andrew Mauldin doubled with two out, bringing-up our #3 batter Chuck Hickman. Instead of pitching to Hickman, our All-State shortstop, Woodlawn decided to walk him and pitch to me.
“Hickman is one of the best players in the state and I felt that we needed to intentionally walk him and pitch to Emfinger,” said Woodlawn Head Coach Dru Nettles.
So I came to the plate in the bottom of the Seventh Inning with the game tied at 3-3 and the Game-Winning run on Second Base with two outs. The Woodlawn pitcher tried to throw me some outside pitches, but he did not want to give me anything good to hit. On a 2-2 count, I reached out on a way-outside pitch and hit a double to the opposite field that brought in Garrett Acquistapace, who was pinch running for Mauldin with the “Game-Winning-Walkoff” run for a 4-3 victory and the 4A State Championship.
As Coach Rick Mauldin said: “This was the Dream of a Lifetime that we had always talked about, but for Emfinger, it was ever so very, very Special.”
Dad! Remember how my Baseball Coach at Hammond, Steve Driscal, had told me before I transferred to St Paul for my Senior year that I would never become a good player. He ragged on me all of the time and I really wanted to prove to him and any other doubers that they were wrong.
And then remember when I sneaked out of the house on Thursday night before the game on Friday. Remember how I came out to the St Paul Baseball Field on Thursday night at 11:30 P.M., in the dark, by myself and stood at home plate and dreamed of hitting a Homerun to win the game for us on Friday. It wasn’t a Homerun, but my Dream really, really came true and also for the whole St Paul Team. Dad! I will definitely, most definitely remember this moment for the rest of my life.
“This is the best that it could ever be, said Coach Mauldin. “It was my 300th win, at home, for the State Championship and my son Andrew Mauldin was the pitcher. I also remember that it was 20-years, almost to the day that I was an Assistant Coach at New Orleans Jesuit when they won the 5A State Championship and I found out that I was coming to St Paul’s.”
In that 13 month span, I was on two Louisiana Baseball State Championships (St Paul High School and Bill Hood) and two World Series National Championships (1998 CABA and 1999 NABF). I was the All-State First Baseman for St Paul and All-American First Baseman for Bill Hood.
After the St Paul State Championship and the NABF World Series Championship, I enrolled at Bossier Parish Community College. Bossier Head Coach Jay Artigues put together one of the greatest Junior College Baseball Recruiting Classes in the Country.
The Bossier Parish Baseball Team had never participated in a Regional Baseball Tournament in the history of the school. I was a member of a very Special group of baseball players that not only participated in the Regional XXIII Baseball Tournament for two years, but we won right at 100 games in those two years. We bearly missed making it to the Junior College World Series in both 2000 and 2001.
I also started at first base in every game for the two year period.
I might add that Bossier Parish has never participated in another Regional XXIII Tournament since the 2001 Baseball Season. In one of the Regional Tournament games in Mississippi, I hit a Homerun over the right field fence that was measured to have traveled over 450-feet and the baseball was never found.
It actually gets better. In 2001, I was a member of the Semi-Pro Houma Southland Hogs who were the United States Baseball Congress (USBC) World Series Runners-Up and in that World Series, I had he Most Hits and Most RBI’s in the Tournament and was Voted All-American First Baseman. Below are the Trophies for Most Hits and Most RBI’s; plus the All-American Plaque.
The Houma Southland Hogs finished as Runners-up again in 2002, but then in 2003, the Hogs were the USBC World Series Champions and I again was voted to the All-American Team. In 2004, I participated with the Hattiesburg Heat out of Mississippi in the National Baseball Congress (NBC) in Wichita, KS.
As my Dad as my Mentor, from the start in 1994 until 2004, I participated in 10 World Series and I was a member of three World Champions (CABA in 1998), (NABF in 1999), and (USBC in 2003). I also was selected to four All-American Teams including (NABF in 1999), (USBC in 2001, 2002, and 2003).
Thanks for all of the Love that you and Mom gave me over the years. I owe a lot of my success to your Mentoring and hard work. Sometimes, we weren’t always on the same page at first, but we were always able to get on the same page together.
Can you imagine how many Baseball Uniforms and Team Baseball Pants that Mom has washed over the years. I love both of you so very much and I’m wishing both of you A Very Happy Easter Sunday!