Horton's stories inspire Bullets
Taylor Baughman learned more than just baseball from former major leaguer Willie Horton while playing in the Great Lakes Elite Tournament on June 14-16 in Detroit with the Mid Ohio Bullets U18 travel baseball team.
"(Horton) was really interesting and let us know that there was a lot more to life than being good at baseball," said Baughman, a 2012 graduate of Johnstown-Monroe High School. "Being a good person and human being is much more important than the game of baseball."
Horton, 69, played 15 of his 18 major-league seasons with the Detroit Tigers. An outfielder and designated hitter who retired after the 1980 season, he was a four-time all-star who finished his career with a .273 batting average, 325 home runs and 1,163 RBI.
Horton's No. 23 was retired by the Tigers in 2000.
"It was good that the kids got to meet a professional player like Willie and also got to meet some scouts," Bullets coach Mark Harbin said. "Willie grew up in Detroit and didn't have a lot, but he knew how to play baseball.
"Willie told some encouraging stories and said that working hard was a big key to success. You had to leave it all on the field and work to get good grades and work to have a good attitude."
The Bullets, who were 1-5 before playing in the Worthington/Phoenix Wood Bat Tournament that began June 21 and concludes Sunday, June 24, are comprised of players from Danville, Heath, Johnstown, Mount Vernon, Sparta and Sunbury.
Heath is represented by 2012 graduate Adam Jenkins (C/1B/P) and senior Kyle Willie (P/OF).
"I pitched some (in the Great Lakes Elite Tournament) and learned that you can't just overpower people with your fastball, but you have to use your defense behind you," said Jenkins, who will play at Olney Central College in Illinois. "I'm trying to fine-tune things for college, where they want me to both pitch and hit. I want to work on my putting the ball in play and my two-strike hitting and things like that."
The Bullets' roster also includes a pair of Big Walnut seniors in Jay Holland (3B/OF) and Cole Harbin (P/C/SS), who is the coach's son.
"When we come together as a team, we can get wins," Holland said. "We all have to do our part by getting clutch hits and not make mistakes."
In addition to Baughman, Johnstown is represented by 2012 graduates Hunter Cecil (P/SS), Andy Richardson (P/1B/OF) and Nick Richardson (2B/OF) and juniors Clayton Bullard (C/P/1B) and Harrison Johnson (C/OF).
"The pitching has been a lot better than we're used to seeing," Andy Richardson said. "When you play high school, there may be one star athlete or maybe two, but there are a lot more on the teams we have been playing. There isn't a large margin for error. If you make one mistake, it can cost you a game."
Baughman and Cecil will play at Urbana University.
"We have been facing some pretty good pitching and that can help get us ready for college," Baughman said. "The pitchers have better pitches and more complete stuff at this level."
Rounding out the team are 2012 graduate C.J. Atherton (P/OF) and senior Trea Atherton (1B/OF) of Mount Vernon, Sparta Highland senior Will Green (P/SS/OF) and Danville senior Dan Mickley (P/C/OF).
"We're still learning to play as a team," coach Harbin said. "We only had a couple of practices together before our first tournament because we were waiting for (high) school baseball to conclude. We're still trying to work together on the field."
After concluding the Worthing-ton/Phoenix Wood Bat Tournament, the Bullets don't play again until July 6 in Fort Wayne, Ind.