ERIC MAXWELL EMFINGER
ALL-AMERICAN BASEBALL PLAYER AND MASTER OF MIRACLES MAN!
By Super Scout Max Emfinger
Eric Maxwell Emfinger was born in 1980. That was the year after I Founded the First High School Football Recruiting Service, so I was pretty busy around that time when he got started playing Baseball at Five, but I still became his Mentor.
Also about that same time, I changed his batting stance from batting right-handed to batting left-handed. All of the Little League Umpires would tell him to move to the other side, but he would always line-up on the left side of the plate, hit the plate with his bat, and then tell them that “My Dad says that I bat on this side.” Eric is Seven in the Photo to the Left. In Back is Greg Schulte, my High School Football Game Filmer and Robert Williams, my Assistant Scout.
I also will never forget bringing Eric home when he was Nine, after his last Little League Baseball game. “Dad, when are you going to start coaching me,” he asked and I will never forget saying: “Today!”
The next year, I became his Little League Baseball Coach and I then became his Mentor for about the next fifteen years. In that same year, I also took his 10-Year Old All-Star Team to the Regional Baseball Championship Tournament and this was our First Miracle that we shared together as we won that Regional 10-Year Old Baseball Championship.
Eric played a lot of different positions in Little League, but he was also a very dominant Pitcher. I taught Eric how to throw a Knuckle-Ball pitch and it became one of his best pitches as a Pitcher. One night, his Knuckle-Ball pitch was so dominant, he Struck-Out 16 Batters. I think Eric still holds that Quail Valley Pitching Record.
Side Note: In 1956, His Dad Struck-Out 16 Batters in Brownwood Little League and his best pitch was his Fastball.
From this point on, it’s pretty difficult to believe what happened next. When Eric was a 12-Year Old Little League All-Star, Coach Willie Hill and I took his Quail Valley Little League All-Star Team to the Texas Little League State Baseball Tournament in Waco where we came in Third-Place.
Side Note II: In 1993, while we were in Waco, Texas for the State Little League Championship, our Quail Valley Little League Team was housed on the Baylor University Campus in the Athletic Dormitory, Martin Hall. I was at Baylor University from 1962-1967 and I lived in Room 333. Then, in 1970, I went back to Baylor to work on my Masters Degree and I became the Assistant Athletic Dorm Director of Martin Hall and I lived in Room 333. So what Room do you think that Eric and I lived in for the Week that we were in Waco for the Little League State Baseball Championship. If you guessed Room 333, you would be correct.
We had a great Little League Baseball Season in 1993, when Eric was 12, but we really thought that we could win that Little League State Championship! We did finish Third which was still a great Feat. After we got back home, from Waco, Eric and I sat down and had a long talk and we both decided that we would try to make it to an Age-Group World Series and we set that as our Goal.
So then, when Eric was 13, I decided to start a Super Select Baseball Team. These Super Select Baseball Teams are pretty common now, but back in 1994, there were no such things like this anywhere until I started the First Super Select Team in Houston, Texas. We were called the Texas Lone Wolves. In 1995 and 1996, The Lone Wolves won over Forty Games. This, in itself is a Miracle, because we did not start playing until the weekends after the High School Baseball Season was over. You have got to win a lot of Tournaments in May, June, and July to win 40 games in a Summer.
I took Eric and his 13-Year Old Super Select Team to the Continental Amateur Baseball Congress (CABA) World Series in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 1994; then his 14-Year Old (CABA) World Series in Columbus, Ohio in 1995; and finally his 15-Year Old (CABA) World Series in Chicago, Illinois in 1996.
The Miracles, in these three years, were that we Qualified for all of those World Series Berths. We Qualified for only One World Series in 1994; but in 1995 and 1996, we Qualified for Three World Series in each Year. There were so many Miracles happening, with our Baseball Team, it would take another Story to tell all of them, but there were a couple times that we scored the Winning Run in the bottom of the last inning. We always Chose to play in the CABA World Series, because they would guarantee us to be able to play more games than in the other World Series.
So Eric and I achieved our original goal of going to an Age-Group World Series as we participated in three. So after participating in those three Age-Group World Series before he turned 16, Eric and I decided to Re-Set our Goals again. This time, we Set our Goals to win an Age-Group World Series and also to make All-American. By this time, Eric had become an All-Star First Baseman, but he was also a Pitcher sometimes in relief.
We moved to Louisiana in 1997 and missed participating in an Age-Group World Series, that year, but you won’t believe what happened next in 1998, just before his Senior Year in Baseball at Covington Saint Paul’s High School. Another Miracle happened!
Eric was playing on a Super Select Baseball Team in Hammond, Louisiana called Bill Hood and they won the Louisiana Summer State Baseball Championship and qualified for a World Series berth to the National Association Baseball Federation (NABF) World Series in Evansville, Indiana.
Then, at the first of August, Eric participated in The Rick Jones Tulane Baseball Camp and he won the Rick Jones Camp MVP Trophy. The Camp MVP Award gave Eric an invitation to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers Super Select Team in the CABA High School World Series in Euclid, Ohio. And so Eric was able to participate in two 1998 Age Group World Series in the same summer and I drove him to both World Series Championship Tournaments.
Side Note III: I might add that the Right Fielder on the Brooklyn Dodger Super Select Team was a player by the name of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton led the Brooklyn Team in Home-Runs and RBI’s as the Brooklyn Dodgers Super Select Team went undefeated with an 8-0 Record and became The 1998 CABA High School World Series Champions.
After the last game, I drove Eric to Evansville, Indiana where he joined his Bill Hood Teammates and helped them to finish in Third Place, but don’t forget this 1998 Bill Hood Team, because they were just warming up for their 1999 NABF World Series Championship.
So, right after the 1998 CABA World Series Championship and 1998 NABF World Series, Eric played his Senior Baseball Season in High School, and his Covington St Paul’s Team won the Louisiana 4A High School State Baseball Championship.
The Defensive Play of the Game for St Paul’s in that State Championship Game and also the Defensive Play of the Year took place in the top of the Seventh Inning in a 3-3 tie game. Baton Rouge Woodlawn had their winning run on second base with two outs and their batter hit the winning single to right field, but wait. Another Miracle Happened!
Our Right Fielder, Ron Allen, quickly came up with the ball and fired a perfect strike to Eric at First Base and Eric 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’s 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 and of the Year. It was truly a Miracle!”
Then, in the bottom of the Seventh Inning, of the 4A State Championship Game, Andrew Mauldin, Coach Mauldin’s Son, doubled with two outs, bringing-up our #3 batter Chuck Hickman. Instead of pitching to Hickman, who was also our All-State Shortstop, Woodlawn decided to walk him and pitch to Eric, who was in the #4 Hole.
“Hickman is one of the best players in the State of Louisiana and I felt that we needed to intentionally walk him and pitch to Emfinger,” said Woodlawn Head Coach Dru Nettles. “It would also give us a chance for a force-out at any base.”
So Eric 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. Before Eric got to the plate, Woodlawn changed Pitchers, and two or three of his St Paul’s Teammates had a little time and they embraced Eric and collectively said: “This is the reason that you came to St Paul’s here and you know exactly what to do!”
The Woodlawn Pitcher tried to throw Eric some outside pitches, but he definitely did not want to give Eric anything good to hit. Then, on a 2-2 count, the Woodlawn pitcher threw a ball way-outside, trying to get Eric to go for it, but Eric reached out and hit a double to the opposite Left-Field that brought in Garrett Acquistapace, who was a Pinch-Runner for Mauldin, with the “Game-Winning-Walkoff” run and a 4-3 victory and the Louisiana 4A State Baseball Championship.
As Coach Rick Mauldin said: “This was The Dream and The Miracle of a Lifetime that we had always talked about, but for Eric Emfinger, it was ever so very, very Special.”
When Eric was a Junior, everyone needs to know how his Baseball Coach, Steve Driscol, at Hammond High School had told him before he transferred to St Paul’s for his Senior season that he would never become a great player. Coach Driscol ragged on Eric all of the time, started cutting his playing time, and so Eric and I decided that it would be in his best interest to Transfer for his Senior Season and so we did. Eric also really wanted to prove to him and any other doubters that he was a Great Player and that they were wrong. Driscol also said that it was not his job to help players to get College Scholarships.
One of the most interesting and most intriguing things, of all time, happened at our house, or away from it, on the night before the State Championship Game. Also remember that Eric did this without his Mom or Dad knowing about it and we did not find out about it until Parents started coming-up to us at Eric’s Graduation on Sunday. The Parents were congratulating us on such a great article in the Newspaper about Eric leaving our house on Thursday Night before the game on Friday.
The article read that Eric had sneaked out of our house on Thursday Night and went over to the St Paul’s Baseball Field at 11:30 P.M., in the dark by himself, and stood at Home Plate and dreamed of hitting a Home-run to win the game for St Paul on Friday and then walked the bases, in the dark. Eric didn’t hit a Home-run, to win the game, but his Dream really, really came true for him and for the whole St Paul’s Baseball Team. Eric will definitely, most definitely remember that moment for the rest of his life. It was another Miracle in the Top of the Seventh Inning and again in the Bottom of the Seventh Inning.
“This is the best that it could ever be, said Coach Mauldin. “It was my 300th win, at home, for the State Baseball 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, Eric Emfinger was on three Louisiana Baseball State Championships (1999 St Paul’s High School and 1998 and 1999 Bill Hood) and two World Series National Championships (1998 CABA and 1999 NABF). Eric was the 1999 All-State First Baseman for St Paul’s and 1999 All-American First Baseman for Bill Hood.
After the St Paul’s State Championship and the NABF World Series Championship, Eric 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. Eric 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 they won 87 games in those two years. They also nearly made it to the Junior College World Series in both 2000 and 2001. Eric also started at First Base in every single game in that two year period.
Side-Note IV: I might add that Bossier Parish has never participated in another Regional XXIII Baseball Tournament since the 2001 Baseball Season. In one of the Regional Tournament games in Mississippi, Eric hit a Home-Run 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, Eric was the youngest member, at 21, of the Houma Semi-Pro Baseball Southland Hogs who were the United States Baseball Congress (USBC) World Series Runners-Up and in that World Series, Eric had the Most Hits and the Most RBI’s in the World Series Tournament and he was Voted All-American First Baseman. In the Photo, Eric is holding his 2001 USBC Trophies for Most Hits and Most RBI’s; plus his 2001 World Series All-American Plaque. The Houma Southland Hougs finished as Runners-Up again in 2002, and Eric made the All-American Team again, but then in 2003, the Hogs were USBC World Series Champions and Eric again was Voted to the All-American Team. In 2004, Eric partipated with the Hattiesburg Heat out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series in Wichita, Kansas.
As his Mentor, from 1994 until 2004, Eric participated in 10 Age-Group World Series and he was a Member of Three World Championship Teams, including CABA in 1998; NABF in 1999; and USBC in 2003. Eric was also Selected to Four All-American Teams, including NABF in 1999; USBC in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
We need to put these World Series Baseball Stats into Perspective. Millions of Baseball Players NEVER get a chance to play in a Single Age-Group World Series, much-less Ten. Also, one out of a Million Baseball Players will get a chance to play in One and One out of 100M might get a chance to play in Two Age-Group World Series. This Famous Photo of Eric at League Stadium in Evansville, Indiana is in 2001. The situation is in the Top of the Ninth Inning for the Houma Hogs with Two Out and the Bases Loaded, as Eric hit another Winning Walkoff Double off the Right Field Wall, bringing in all Three Runs.
Side-Note V: This Famous League Stadium was only built in 1992, but League Stadium looks much older than this. The reason for this is simple; it was built as a set for the Famous Movie “A League Of Their Own” and Eric participated in Four World Series in this Stadium, including 1998 NABF; plus 2001, 2002, and 2003 USBC.
Sometimes, Eric and I were not always on the same page at first, but we were always able to get on the same page together. All of his Baseball Success and his Baseball Miracles did not come without a lot of hard work and dedication to our Baseball Goals not only in our Baseball Life, but also in The Lord. Our Motto Was Always: “Expect A Miracle!” We Always Expected a Miracle and many times a Miracle would happen.
Ginger and I love both Eric and his new bride, Jennifer, of Three Years since May 7, 2011 and on Easter 2013, Ginger and I wished both of them A Very Happy Easter Sunday!
Little did we know or even suspect that the most incredible and biggest Miracle of our Lifetime was getting ready to happen to all of us. I wanted Jennifer to tell about this most amazing Miracle story in her own words.
I live in Moore, Oklahoma and while I know it’s called “Tornado-Alley”, I’m used to tornadoes and I never thought that one would affect me. I’m an Okie. They don’t scare me. Until now. Eric (My Husband) and I lost our home on May 20, 2013. Fortunately we were safe and to me that’s all that matters. But how we were saved is a completely different story.
On May 13th, we headed to Plaquemine, Louisiana to visit Max and Ginger Emfinger, Eric’s Mom and Dad and Family. We were going to stay a week and head back on Sunday May 19th. It’s a nice little drive (10 hours) and we decided to take Charlie with us. Charlie is our baby – an Irish Setter/Chocolate Lab mix. When he was a puppy he was deserted by his family and my aunt brought him to live with us. Needless to say, we spoil Charlie. Not with table scraps or anything like that, but with love and lack of training. Charlie knows how to sit and shake hands, but he is a very excitable dog and needs more training.
Charlie really is a very loving and friendly dog. Anyway, I digress! When we were planning on going to Louisiana, I was very weary of bringing Charlie. He was not neutered and Eric’s parents have a dog, Mr. Goof, who is intact as well. I knew that getting two intact males together could cause a fight, because they are very territorial and full of hormones. I was especially nervous because Charlie had not seen Goof since he was a puppy. Eric insisted he would watch over Charlie so off we went. In the end, it was a good thing we brought him. Though we didn’t realize that until after.
We arrived in Plaquemine Monday night around 11:00 P.M. Instantly there was tension between the two dogs. Charlie started growling and barking, but Eric kept a tight hold on the leash and we put him in the back bedroom. I knew we were in for one crazy week. The next morning, we let Charlie out and followed him as he was familiarizing himself with the house and Goof stayed out of Charlie’s way and Charlie contented himself with chewing on his bone. I thought we were in the clear.
We relaxed a few hours and caught up with our parents, always keeping an eye on Charlie. Goof wondered into the living room to lay down and the next thing we know, Charlie had a hold of Goof’s head. I don’t know if he thought Goof was after his bone or what, but it was a moment of powerful hormone surge. On instinct, Eric jumped up to separate the fight. He didn’t want Charlie to hurt Goof. In the process of trying to pry Charlie off, the tip of Eric’s left index finger was bitten off.
Eric is screaming about his finger and I heard Ginger say, “I see it. Don’t step on it!” I will always remember that. I won’t bog you down with gory details. Max and I took Eric to the hospital and he had emergency surgery. Max had the end of his finger and took it to the hospital, but the Doctor was not able to re-attach the tip, but fortunately it was only down to the first joint.
This, obviously, is when our plans to return home changed. The next day I get a call that Charlie needs to be quarantined for 10 days (even though he was completely up to date on shots) but we want to stay in Plaquemine anyway so Eric can follow up with the Doctor who conducted the surgery on his hand. Eric’s dad repeatedly said that “This happened for a reason” but we just didn’t know what that reason was yet.
And he was right. What I forgot to mention is that Eric works nights, so he sleeps during the day. If we had been home the day we planned, Eric would have been sleeping on the afternoon of May 20th. Being a day sleeper, he is used to sleeping through the tornado alarm and dogs barking.
The afternoon of May 20th, I was checking Facebook on my phone and saw that there were storm warnings and a Tornado warning in Cleveland County. I wanted to make sure everything was all right so I logged on to the computer to check out the news channels. The internet connection wasn’t all that great so I turned the TV to the Weather Channel just as the Tornado touched down in Newcastle. From that point on, I was glued to the TV. Eric and Max were at the store so I was at the house with Ginger and we watched the Tornado as it moved to Moore.
Every time they would put up a map or an arrow showing the projected direction, I would try to show her where our house was located. I was starting to get really nervous. We actually have a storm shelter in the backyard so I contacted our neighbor to let him know that it was unlocked and he could take shelter. He wasn’t at home, he had driven away from the Tornado, but fortunately he spread the word. He knew a neighbor that I had not really met and he called her. She, her two children, her mother and her sister were planning on riding it out in their house just three houses down from mine. My neighbor got to them just in time. They had no idea that I had a shelter. He was actually on the phone with them as the storm came through until the cell towers were taken out. Five more lives were saved that day.
I’ll never forget that day. I started receiving texts on my phone asking if we were okay. Fortunately I was able to tell everyone that we were completely out of harm’s way. Then I started receiving calls from family that they think my house was in the path. My dad was able to pause a video clip of the Public School Administration Building (my house was directly behind it) and he Googled my address and matched it up. When he told me that, I still didn’t want to believe him. It wasn’t until we received a text from one neighbor and a video from another that it really started to sink in. When Eric and Max got back to the house, I ran outside and told Eric, “I don’t think we have a house anymore.” What a way to greet someone!
One of the hardest things was not being able to be there. We are fortunate to have a wonderful support system and family. My family got together and went over to the site Tuesday and Wednesday (they sneaked in) and actually salvaged some pictures and even my wedding dress. We weren’t able to leave Louisiana until the Thursday after the Tornado so the first time we saw it in person was Friday, with the insurance adjuster.
I was just speechless. It’s a process for sure, but I think what is helping me get through it is that we are safe, and five other people are safe. Charlie (who has been neutered) is doing well too. He is his loving self and is fine around my sister’s dog Snooki (they grew up together and are buddies). Something that was so out of character for Charlie saved lives. Eric is fine with losing part of his finger if it means he’s alive and so are others. Someone told me that Eric and Charlie actually have a Soul Contract and are meant to be together. It’s crazy, but after this they’re even closer. Below is a Photo of where we used to live. My Family found our Wedding Picture and put it on the tree in what used to be our Front Yard.
Side-Note VI: Jennifer Emfinger has worked for CASA the last Nine years as the Marketing Coordinator. Jennifer develops marketing plans, websites, advertising and more for the Oklahoma State Office and individual CASA Programs. Jennifer is also a CASA Advocate with CASA of Oklahoma County and had the honor of being named 2009 CASA Volunteer of The Year.
Eric played for Louisiana Tech after his Bossier Parish Baseball Years. In the Photo, Eric is posing for his 2003 Louisiana Tech Baseball Trading Card. Then in 2004, Eric was a Louisiana Tech Baseball Graduate Assistant, as he was also an Assistant Baseball Coach at Shreveport Evangel from 2004-2007.
Evangel won the 2006 Louisiana 2A State Baseball Championship and then were State Runnerup in 2007. Eric moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 2008 to become the Head Baseball Coach of a new Private High School, but the job fell through when they were not able to meet their expenses. Eric was Sent to Oklahoma for a Reason and of course, it was to meet Jennifer and they were Married on May 7, 2011. Eric is currently working at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma.
Final Side-Note VII and Final Miracle: Eric and Jennifer lived with her Sister, Jessica, in Oklahoma City, for just about a year, but on Easter Sunday 2014, Eric and Jennifer and Charlie moved into their New House that was re-built on the same slab that their original house was on and blew away in the Moore Tornado.