Mark Lyford, the longtime Grain Valley High School baseball coach, and Jimmy Tucker, who recently resigned as the Eagles football coach, watched from the wings as four Eagle standouts signed letters of intent to continue their respective athletic careers at the next level.
Hunter Ramirez, a Class 4 all-state selection, signed with defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State, while Zac Slaven (Central Methodist), Crayton Smith (Culver-Stockton) and Avery Fowler (Avila) signed to play baseball with their respective colleges.
“We’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t ever recall three guys signing on the same day, so this is pretty special,” Lyford said. “They each have a great opportunity to continue playing the game they love while getting a great education.”
The morning signing session was extra special for Tucker, who recently announced his resignation as the Eagles head coach.
“I’m very proud,” Tucker said. “It doesn’t get much better than signing with the defending national champion. We talked with Hunter a lot about his future and we all knew he could sign with a great university like Northwest Missouri State.
“He’s worked so hard – he deserves this. I think they’re looking at him as a wide receiver, but he could add some weight and be a great tight end. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for a very deserving young man.”
Sporting a Bearcat hat and national champion T-shirt, Ramirez joined his fellow Eagles as they signed their national letters.
“This is an amazing day,” Ramirez said. “I went to the Northwest camp last June and have been talking to them since then. I’ve dreamed about this day, and now it’s a reality – it’s happening. I just want to thank all the people who helped make this possible – my parents and our coaches at Grain Valley.
“There were a lot of days I didn’t want to stay and lift extra weights and they told me it would pay off – and I want to thank them for believing in me.”
Slaven said Central Methodist in Fayette, Mo., is a perfect fit both academically and athletically.
“I went there with my summer team and really liked the area and the school,” said Slaven, who will be a catcher. “To know I can get a great education and play baseball four more years is very special.”
Smith said Wednesday’s signing session allowed him to achieve a lifelong dream.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed about playing college ball,” said Smith, who will play middle infield at Culver-Stockton in Canton, Mo. “I’d like to make a good impression as a freshman and play my first year. We’ll see what happens. Right now, it’s just exciting to think about.”
Fowler brought a touch of humor to the signing session.
“They coaches at Avila told me, ‘You can’t make a 6-foot-2 lefty,’” he said, grinning. “Well, I’m a 6-2 lefty and I’m going to do everything I can to make them happy that they signed me. I can’t wait for college, but I’m also excited about my senior year here at Grain Valley.
“Today, when you sign your letter, you just think about all the people who have helped you along the way. I’m so thankful for all of them.”