By Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor
It was another first for the Western Nevada College baseball team as Chuck Howard was named to the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association All-American team on Friday.
The sophomore catcher was an honorable mention choice, essentially meaning that those selecting the NJCAA All-American team believe he's the fourth best catcher in the country. Howard becomes the first player in three-year history of WNC's program to be named as an All-American. Not even Cole Rohrbough, who is now pitching in the Atlanta Braves organization, was selected as an All-American.
Howard evidently was among the players nominated by the Scenic West Athletic Conference for All-American consideration.
"That's crazy," said Whittemore about Howard's honor. "I didn't even know the league was going to submit him. Nobody deserves it more than him."
But Howard ended up being only one of two SWAC players to be named as an All-American, joining College of Southern Nevada freshman pitcher Taylor Cole, who was chosen to the second team.
The SWAC nominated two other WNC players for All-American consideration in Brian Barnett, who was the conference's Co-Player of the Year along with Brandon Trodick, and pitcher Kyle Farrell. Trodick was also nominated for All-American consideration.
In an ironic twist, even though Farrell was completely shut out from the all-SWAC team, the conference's coaches decided to nominate him for All-American consideration because of his overall stats for the entire season. The all-conference team was chosen based on conference stats only.
Whittemore said Farrell and Barnett were both deserving of All-American honors. Barnett hit .364 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI, impressive stats since the SWAC uses wood bats. Most other conferences use aluminum bats.
"Barnett's hurt because of the fact that he uses a wood bat and everybody swings aluminum," Whittemore said. "It's hard to compete as a hitter. It makes it more impressive that Chuck was awarded for his outstanding season."
Overall on the season, Farrell was 10-2 with an 1.71 earned run average and 80 strikeouts in 84.1 innings.
Howard hit .304 with one home run and 22 RBI. But Howard's value to WNC was really demonstrated by his defense.
He called all the pitches and was able to handle a young pitching staff that didn't really miss a beat after the Wildcats lost many top pitchers from the year before. For that, Howard was the team's Most Valuable Player.
""You can't ask for anything ore than that out of your catcher," said Whittemore on what Howard did. "I think the best compliment I could give him is he was our team Most Valuable Player. The catcher needs to be the coach on the field and Chuck did that."