Playing hard: Miller Grove senior motto is reflection of Hornet's record
Joseph Elerson | News-Telegram Sports Writer

March 17, 2005 - MILLER GROVE - Having fun and playing hard.

That seems to be the motto for the senior class of the Miller Grove Hornets for the 2005 season as five seniors have led the Hornets to a 5-3 overall record and 3-0 in District 14-A play.

Those seniors - Frank Weaver, Ray Sparks, Ben Whillock, Jon Dodd and B.J. Shoemaker - have either played together since tee-ball or have known each other since kindergarten.

"Looking at this group, we have five seniors and three of them have played every sport every year," MGHS coach Sam Panter said. "This group of seniors is a good group and they have worked hard and they do what you ask them to do."

Weaver, the No. 1 pitcher for the team since he was a freshman, has been playing baseball since he was five years old and has been a four-year starter on the varsity squad along with Sparks.

"I like the pitching because I have the control of the game, and I like the pressure. I just love playing baseball because I love everything about it," Weaver said. "I am proud of my guys because I think we are doing pretty good right now at this point in the season."

Weaver said he plans on attending either Dallas Baptist University or Northwood University for a business degree and hopes to play baseball in college.

Sparks has been playing baseball with Frank and Jon ever since they were in tee-ball and said after this season it is going to be the last time that they will probably be hanging out with each other and that is going to be tough for him.

"I have been playing since I was in tee-ball and then until fourth grade before taking some time off and then came back in seventh grade and it is just a fun game and when everything comes together and everybody works together it is just fun," Sparks said.

Sparks said this summer he plans on moving to Arkansas to volunteer at a church retreat camp and that after his final year at Miller Grove he will continue to play in church league baseball games.

"This summer, I am moving to Arkansas and volunteering at a church retreat camp in the Ozark Mountains from the last day of school until Aug. 13," he said. "After this baseball season, I won't be playing in college and will most likely just play church league."

Sparks plans on going into the military after going to either Paris Junior College or Texas A&M-Commerce for two years and then enlisting in the Air Force.

For Whillock, he has had the opportunity to play high school baseball at Miller Grove and was on the Sulphur Springs Wildcats baseball team last year and said he will be playing in the National Championships in Round Rock with a club team this June.

"This is my third year here because my freshman and sophomore year I played here and then last year I was at Sulphur Springs and now I am back out here," Whillock said.

Ben said he would like to attend either Tarleton State or Northeast Texas Community College with a major in Business to possibly become a sports agent.

"I got a few tryouts with a couple of teams in the upcoming months that I would really like to go to and play baseball with," he said.

Whillock has taken on the role as the No. 2 pitcher behind Weaver this year and said being one of the leaders on the team means a lot to him to have his fellow teammates watching what he does every game.

"It has been a lot of fun this year since all of the younger guys are looking up to me and Frank and just trying to see what we are going to do, and it is a lot of fun coming off the field hearing your teammate talking about the way you play," Whillock said.

The 2005 season is the first year back for Dodd and his first year since the fifth grade to be playing baseball and he said he felt it was time for him to get back into the sport and to hang out with his friends.

"I thought that I needed to make the time to get back to playing baseball since this is my senior year and I like to hang out with my friends and play ball since coach plays me in the outfield and occasionally at second base," he said.

Jon plans to attend L-3 Communications and if that doesn't work out then said he would like to go to Devry University to get a degree in computer relations.

Shoemaker rounds out the senior class of Hornet baseball players and said he is undecided about his college plans at the moment but has been on the Miller Grove varsity for two years at center field and second base.

"I have tried to help all of the freshman and give them an example to follow even though I am not one of the greatest players," Shoemaker said. "Really I just like hanging out with everybody and the winning just goes along with it and even if we are losing we are still having fun."

Panter said with this senior class they are going to leave a lasting impression on the Miller Grove baseball team in terms of their athleticism and leadership skills and that the underclassman will have to be able to match their enthusiasm in the coming years.

"You can look at this group athletically and with their leadership because each one of these guys have had leadership roles at some point," Panter said. "Not only are they good athletes but they are good citizens and good students here at Miller Grove."

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