l. When did you attend LHS? What sports did you play in high school?
I attended LHS from 1987 to graduation in 1991. I played football, basketball, and baseball throughout my three years, lettering in all. My senior year, I only played football and baseball. I was recruited for football in college more so for than for my skills - or lack thereof - in baseball. I seem to remember playing some baseball with Coach Stoll during his "brutal years" and Coach Adam Green in his as well.
2. Could you tell us your best baseball story? Isn't that the best thing about baseball - the stories upon stories? Like everyone, I have so many - both good and bad (when you're told by the manager to bean a guy and you miss him with 4 consecutive pitches - that's the definition of bad). I have been fortunate in my life to have so many experiences in playing, coaching, and just talking about baseball. But since Coach Stoll is asking for one, I'll provide one I think defined my personality on the mound:
My senior year at Charlotte (1993), we were crushing a very good Virginia Tech squad 17 0. I was "lodging it" pretty well. Along about
the sixth inning, VT's clean-up hitter - who I had struck out twice previously - hit a high fastball for a pop-fly HR about 327 feet (fence was 325). He, unfortunately, decided he wanted to watch it, talk smack, and toss his bat. I said nothing to him as he rounded the bases, slowly. I faced him again in the ninth inning and my first pitch was going into his ribs; however, I don't always have the greatest control (wink, wink) and my fastball hit him in the helmet near the bill.
The pitch shattered his helmet and delivered the message at the same time (pieces flew everywhere - he was ok). He was not too pleased and, as walking toward him, I offered to meet him halfway from home plate and discuss: my pitch and his "inconsiderate" previous choice of actions. He declined, got a new helmet, and took his place at first. We went on to sweep the series with the tone
being set. Years later I spoke with a VT player I respect and he indicated the player would have been on his own if he decided to charge my mound. Funny, I still have two large pieces of his VT maroon-colored helmet in my keepsakes - given to me by my teammate who stated, "...that is one of the best things I've ever seen. I even grabbed me a couple pieces for myself!"
3. What was your most memorable LHS experience?
I have too many to list. I was fortunate to have great classmates and a great time at LHS, both in and outside
of athletic activities. But, if I had to name one, it would be the State Football Championship game against Garden City at Kansas State which LHS WON of course. It was such an awesome feeling to complete that goal as an individual and team most of us had started back in junior high. I played all snaps offensively and defensively during the game and could not sit down on the bus home from Manhattan due to severe cramps in my hamstrings. I didn't care, however, due to the win!!
And, in order to avoid any discourse on the home-front, I better mention that I began dating my wife (J. Cleavinger - aunt to current Lion/Duck Garrett Cleavinger) back then, too.
4. What teacher at LHS had the greatest impact on you?
Can one say all of them? As clichĂŠ as it may sound, it is the truth. I had so many great lessons and experiences passed from both teachers and coaches. Heck, even the one basketball coach/math teacher I could care less about taught me how not to act. Coaches that impacted me, in no particular order, included: Bill Freeman, Dick Purdy, Dirk Wedd, Bob Lisher, Ron Commons, Chuck Holley, Craig Hershiser, Bill Scott, Ted Juneau, Terry Wells, Ron Garvin, and Lynn Harrod. Gale Armbrister, Mark Ice, and Lee Ice should also be mentioned for the lessons on the summer baseball fields.
Despite concerns of inflating his ego, I gained the most from Terry Wells as a teacher/coach. His classes taught me how to write (I think). In my current occupation, I am so grateful I was taught to communicate in writing both efficiently and grammatically correct. When your work may be a matter of public record both at the state or federal level - it better be tight in order to avoid embarrassment. T. Wells also made sure no one "lived in a glass house" under his tutelage. I am still emotionally scarred from the psychological abuse by him I observed - and was subjected to - during my LHS years........... :-)
I think I need to mention Coach Harrod as well. He wouldn't let me catch and pitch - shrewdly made the choice for me. I guess that worked out all right, huh, Coach???
5. What college did you attend? What was your major?
I decided to pursue baseball instead of football after my senior year. As my baseball skills - especially my pitching - were decent but not exceptional, I accepted a baseball scholarship to Allen County CC in Iola, KS. Coach Val McLean changed several things and I went from throwing 79-81mph to 87-88 mph after one year (I eventually topped-out at 9294mph while in the minor leagues). While at Allen I received my Associates Degree in Biology, was named a National Junior College Academic All-American, and was the starting pitcher for the 1992 NJCAA Region Six All-Star Game.
I was fortunate to have several offers from Division I programs after my sophomore year and decided to play at UNC - Charlotte under Coach Loren Hibbs and Coach Pat Cedeno (both Wichita State baseball alumni). I played two years at Charlotte while being drafted twice (St. Louis and Atlanta, respectively) and was named the Metro Conference Student Athlete of the Month in May 1995 among other awards. I received two Bachelor Degrees in Biology and Criminal Justice in the fall of 1995. Also at Charlotte, I completed my Master of Science Degree in Criminology in May 1998 while working as a Graduate Assistant with the baseball team.
6. What did you do after your college days?
Immediately following college, I pitched in the minor leagues for the Atlanta Braves and
Cleveland Indians organizations (drafted in the 15th round by Braves in 1995). I "retired" from playing in 1997 following shoulder surgery and release from the Indians. I then served as a Grad Asst. at Charlotte, helping the pitching staff, until my graduate schooling was complete in 1998. I have been married for 15+ years to the aforementioned Jenne Cleavinger and have two awesome children: Kaiden Gehrig (12) and Sadie Elizabeth (9). I spend my downtime with family, coaching youth teams, working in the yard, and providing pitching lessons when I can. I try to keep the baseball spirit alive by playing some slow-pitch softball locally as well as in law enforcement tournaments with my agency's travelling team.
7. What is your current occupation?
Since 1998, I have been a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. It has been, and remains, an interesting and rewarding career. It has allowed me to travel the world and see many things I probably would not have in another profession. As part of my duties with the USSS, I have trained as a Rescue Swimmer with the U.S. Coast Guard. With regard to baseball, I have been fortunate to experience many great things during this career - of course, from a totally different perspective. Due to the nature of the job, I cannot provide much in details or specifics.
8. If you could do one day all over again at LHS, what would you do?
Like others have stated, there are too many great days and great memories associated with every aspect of LHS. The 1990-91 state football games come to mind quickly, especially our senior year championship. I think honestly, however, I would pick just a normal day during my sophomore year (before my first car) when my father would drop me off at school before his work at Checkers. Those times of just riding in the car talking about school, coaches, my sports, and life in general before our "day" began are unforgettable, dear to me and greatly missed. The bottom-line is I am very proud to have graduated from LHS and will always cherish the days in the halls, in the stands, and on the fields and courts.
It is a great day to be a Lion!
Baseball, Matt McWilliams