The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Peter Stein
Staff Writer 

Texico pair extend baseball careers to college

 

August 17, 2018



TEXICO — As high school coaches watch their players step up to the next level, it’s bittersweet.

For Texico baseball coach Ty Thatcher, it was mostly the “sweet” part on Thursday afternoon. Thatcher hosted a brief ceremony in the Texico High School Gym lobby, one in which Ben Crist and Nathan Phipps were honored for earning shots at college baseball. Crist signed a letter of intent for Division III Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Phipps, meanwhile, made his written commitment to play for a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school — Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

“There aren’t a whole lot of baseball players who get to play past high school,” Thatcher said, “so that’s a huge accomplishment.”

‘Sweet’ indeed. It was also a little ‘bitter’, though. It subtracts a lot to lose Crist, a pitcher who went undefeated the past two years, and Phipps, a big guy who wielded a big bat in the clean-up spot — a bat that allowed him to go yard at Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park during Texico’s 5-0 state-championship win over Estancia on May 11.

Especially bitter when those players have been around the program for years.

“I think it’s more gratifying than it is sad,” Thatcher said. “But you do get close to them. As coaches we spend a lot of time with these guys. I’ve been coaching those two guys since they were in the eighth grade, so that’s a lot of time. I’ve coached them as eighth-graders in basketball and I’ve watched them play Little League baseball and all the way through 15-year-old baseball here and Clovis Baseball League and so on.

“So it definitely will be fun to keep up with them, but it’s a true loss.”

Both players are headed to programs that fit their college baseball needs, and vice versa. Each caught the attention of coaches that helped the process along.

“My brother-in-law knew the coach (Bobby Mesker) there,” Crist said, “and I went to a camp where their coach was and he liked me a lot, and then it kind of just took off from there. I went to visit, fell in love with the campus and the coaches and the field and just saw me there.

“I was working out for Coach (Chris) Cook down at NMMI (junior college), and he recommended me to that (Benedictine) program,” Phipps said. “He sent my information to the coach (Eric Peterson) up there; they were really good friends. And that coach started actively recruiting me and it was a good fit. ... As soon as I started meeting the people and seeing what kind of atmosphere it was, I knew it was the right place for me immediately. Playing baseball or not, I probably would’ve gone to that college. So it was the Lord looking out for me that it worked out the way it did.”

Phipps received a partial scholarship. Crist did not get any, since Division III programs don’t offer them. Both ex-Wolverines, though, have rare opportunities to play baseball at a high level.

“I’m very thrilled,” Crist said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play college baseball and I’m just so excited to realize this dream.”

“Oh yeah, thrilled,” Phipps said. “All that hard work paid off. That’s the most exciting thing — knowing that hard work pays off.”

 

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