Ex-Pirate farmhand achieved his dream at GC

Ex-Pirate farmhand achieved his dream at GC

McHENRY – Mike Crosby views the decision to attend Garrett College as one of his best life choices.

"You've got all these kids with dreams of going Division I someplace with 25,000 or 30,000 students," said the one-time minor leaguer with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, who is one of five former GC student athletes slated to be inducted into the Garrett College Athletic Hall of Fame on October 26th.  "The one-on-one time I had with my professors, my coaches, and administrators was so valuable for me.  With all of the life lessons you need to learn at that age, I couldn't have had a better experience than Garrett College."

LaSha Anderson (women's basketball), Amanda Frantz Shaffer (women's volleyball), Antonio Butler (men's basketball) and Mike DeLeeuw (baseball) join Crosby in the fourth class to be inducted into the Garrett College Athletic Hall of Fame.  Tickets to the induction dinner, to take place in the Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex (CARC) gymnasium, are $25 per person (free to children under 12), and may be reserved at www.garrettlakers.com by October 18th.

"It was one of the happiest moments in my life as far as sports go," Crosby said of being notified of his election to the Hall of Fame.  "I feel like it's the greatest honor I've ever had, even including playing professional baseball.  Garrett College means a lot to me."

Crosby played catcher and was one of the Lakers' top run producers while attending GC from 1992 to 1994.  A strong performance at a tryout camp outside of Pittsburgh caught a scout's eye and eventually led the Pirates to sign him to a minor-league contract and invite him to spring training in 1995.

"I threw five balls and he [the Pirates scout] said he'd seen enough," Crosby said of the tryout camp. "I asked him if he wanted to see me hit and he said, 'After what we just saw, if you don't know how to hit, we'll teach you how to hit.' "

Crosby's professional career was short-circuited by a broken left foot during an extended spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles in 1995.  The New York Mets organization offered him a contract in 1996, but the broken ankle was just the latest in a string of injuries that had taken its toll on the young catcher.

"You're never 100 percent [physically] when you're playing professional baseball except the first day of spring training," remarked Crosby.

Crosby, however, has kept involved in baseball.  He's preparing for his fourth season as head baseball coach at his alma mater, Man (W.Va.) High School.

"I don't know if there's a better feeling in the world than helping a young player grow and improve," said Crosby, whose business – Crosby Bats – makes professional wooden baseball bats.

Anderson – a second-team all-American in 2004 who also earned first-team all-Region XX and all-Maryland JuCo honors – led the Lakers to consecutive state women's basketball tournament championships in 2003 and 2004.

"We were the first team to ever win for the women, so to go back and repeat is history setting," said Anderson, who was recruited along with Martinsburg (W.Va.) High teammate Natasha Robinson to play for the Lakers.

The 2003-04 Lakers followed up their second consecutive state crown with a Region XX title that qualified the team for the national tournament.

"It was incredible to make it there and play among the best teams in the country – just surreal," recalled Anderson, who went on to play two seasons at West Virginia State University.

Anderson, a federal government engineer who coaches her son's youth basketball team, said it was "a great honor to get the call from Coach [Dennis] Gibson about the Hall of Fame."

"I can't wait to go up there [Garrett College] on the 26th," said Anderson.

While being honored for her volleyball career, Frantz Shaffer also played with Anderson on the women's basketball team that went to nationals in 2004.

"I actually went to Garrett to play basketball and ended up playing basketball and volleyball," said the Northern Garrett High graduate, who played volleyball, basketball and softball for the Huskies.  "Playing in the national tournament was a cool experience."

Frantz Shaffer was an honorable mention on all-Region XX and all-Maryland JuCo volleyball squads while playing for the Lakers during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  Frantz Shaffer, who also played volleyball at Frostburg State University, is happy she decided to play on the collegiate level locally.

"One of the nice things about Garrett was that all of my family and my friends were able to continue watching me throughout my college experience," said Frantz Shaffer, who is an office manager/accountant for GMS Mine Repair, an 1800-employee company that specializes in underground coal contracting.

While the women's basketball program was more successful during Frantz Shaffer's time at GC, she said volleyball was also a great experience.

"Coach [Ann] Wellham was an amazing coach," said Frantz Shaffer, specifically noting the impact of a weeklong teambuilding experience Wellham oversaw during the preseason.

Frantz Shaffer called election to the Hall of Fame "a huge honor."

"I'm still involved with helping Garrett athletics," she said.  "[GC women's volleyball head coach] Kim [Harsch] and I do some clinics.  It's nice to still be involved with the college.  I want to continue to give back to the kids who are coming through the program."

Butler was first-team all-Region XX and played in the Maryland JuCo All-Star Game as a sophomore while playing for the Lakers from 2011 to 2013.  He came to Garrett College after not making the men's basketball team at Delaware State University.

"At the end of the school year [at Delaware State], I started the process of finding a new school to attend," recalled Butler, who heard about GC from Frank Holloway, a friend who was already with the Lakers.

"I took a visit to Garrett, met with Coach Gibson, and I was sold," said Butler.

Looking back at his GC years, Butler said his "happiest moments mainly came from being around the team . . . we genuinely supported each other's dreams."

Butler went on to play at Slippery Rock University with GC teammates Holloway and Jordan Grady.  His success continued at Slippery Rock, where he was first-team all-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, second-team all-region, and a four-time Slippery Rock Athlete of the Week.  Butler also earned the Charles "Pop" Knauss Memorial Scholarship.

Butler went on to play professionally in Luxembourg, which he said "was a very fun experience that came with its ups and downs."

"I love the game of basketball, so I was very thrilled to continue to play the game after school," said Butler, "but being so far away from home and family was a daily struggle that I dealt with."

Butler presently works for a security company and coaches high school basketball.  The Lorton, Va. resident, who plans to go back to school to earn a master's degree in sport management, said he is grateful for his Garrett College experience.

"I just want to thank Coach Gibson and the Garrett community for accepting me and allowing me to continue to pursue my academic and athletic goals," said Butler.

DeLeeuw started his JuCo baseball career at a Florida community college, but he transferred to Garrett College after taking part in a Florida workout conducted by GC baseball head coach Eric Hallenbeck.  It's a decision DeLeeuw – who made all-state, all-region and all-district while playing for the Lakers – has never regretted.

"I loved the atmosphere – just great people up there," DeLeeuw said in a phone interview from Florida, where he is a traffic homicide investigator.  "I loved the baseball, the whole athletic department, and the teachers were great."

DeLeeuw, who played third base for the Lakers before playing first and third for two years at West Virginia State University, said he particularly enjoyed playing for Hallenbeck.

"Coach Hallenbeck was a great coach – I loved his work ethic, and he was always there for us on and off the field," said DeLeeuw.