Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame announces 2017 class

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2017 class on Wednesday.

It includes: Brett Cowdin, 1948 Decker Oilers baseball team, Vince Gonzales, Sherman Parks, 1994 Shawnee Heights Thunderbirds baseball team, Steve Simpson, and J.P. Wright.

The 2017 Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 13th at the Ramada Downtown Topeka Hotel and Convention Center.

Brett Cowdin -

Brett Cowdin coached at five Shawnee County high schools and also launched two college-age summer baseball programs before his death in 2013. He coached at Highland Park, Hayden, Topeka West, Rossville and Washburn Rural, and was the Scots’ first coach in the early 1990s. Cowdin also founded the Topeka Golden Giants and Rossville Rattlers summer semi-pro teams. Cowdin’s No. 14 was retired by both the Rattlers and Golden Giants. Codin coached 29 players drafted by major-league franchises. Two who played for the Golden Giants, Jerad Head and Evan Marshall, made it to the majors. Under Cowdin, the Giants captured the 2010 National Collegiate Summer Classic. Also, the Rattlers captured the 19-under NBC championship in 2013 and were runnersup in 2012. In addition to baseball, Cowdin coached high school football, basketball and track.

1994 Shawnee Heights High School Team -

Shawnee Heights became the first city team since baseball was launched at all seven high schools to capture a state championship, doing so in just its fourth season. The 1994 T-Birds finished 18-3 under head coach Craig Cox and assistant Ryan Schmidt. Heights hit .365 as a team, including averages of .425 or better from starters Casey Brees, Brady Kemper, Mickey Simpson and Sparky Wilhelm. The T-Birds advanced to state by winning one-run games in regional play against Highland Park and Seaman. In the 5A state tournament at El Dorado, the T-Birds ripped 29 hits and averaged 11.3 runs in toppling Bonner Springs, McPherson and Blue Valley. “We’re not unbeatable, but we do like our offense and have a lot of confidence in it,’’ Cox said after the T-Birds claimed the state

J.P. Wright -

Wright attended Seaman High School before baseball was added as a sport, but flourished at Washburn. An outfielder, Wright became the first Ichabod to finish his career with a batting average above .400. Wright hit .450 for his career and was also one of Washburn’s greatest power hitters. He played three seasons, earning first-team All-America honors in 1988 when he was the NAIA player of the year. Wright was a three-time all-district selection. He remains Washburn’s career leader in batting average (.450), home runs (64) and RBI (228), while sitting second in career hits with 226. Wright was drafted as the 649th pick of the 25th round in the 1989 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins and made it as far as Class A with Kenosha.

Steve Simpson -

Former Ichabod Steve Simpson pitched one season in the Major Leagues after his four-year career at Washburn. The right-hander threw for the Ichabods from 1967-70 and then was drafted in the fourth round of the 1970 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. Simpson pitched in A leagues his first two years in the Minor League. His third year, 1972, he advanced to AA Alexandria and appeared in 42 games before being promoted to the Padres at the age of 24 for the final portion of the season. He went 0-2 in nine MLB appearances. At Washburn, Simpson struck out 50 batters in 28 2/3 innings his freshman year and his senior year he struck out 90 batters in 64 1/3 innings. That total of 90 strikeouts in 1970 stood as a school single-season record until 1991 and he is still one of just three Ichabods to have 90 or more strikeouts in a season. His 1.12 ERA that season also stood as a school record for more than 20 years.

Sherman Parks

Sherman Parks was a lifetime resident of Topeka Community and baseball fan who played and coached baseball. He grew up in Topeka playing youth baseball and graduated from Topeka High School in 1968. He went on to play for Washburn University where he was a standout player known locally for his ability to hit home runs. In 1972, he was named Washburn’s Outstanding Senior Athlete playing for Coach Larry Elliott’s WU baseball team. While serving on the Topeka Public Schools Board of Education, as President, 1992-93, he was responsible for leading the effort to return interscholastic baseball to Topeka Public Schools. His greatest accomplishment in baseball was returning baseball to Topeka Public Schools after a 34-year absence. Sherman was also a major supporter for the Topeka Public Schools Sports Park project where he now has a baseball field named in his honor. His passing at the age of 51 in 2002 not only left a void in the hearts of family and friends but in the heart of the Topeka community he served so well.

Vince Gonzales -

Vince Gonzales was a Charter Member of the Topeka Baseball Federation formed by Marion MacDonald and Lee Dodson. He was active in the organization expanding baseball opportunities for the youth of Topeka in an era when demand was outgrowing the availability of teams and playing facilities. Vince managed and coached youth baseball in the Cosmopolitan League, Babe Ruth League, Connie Mack League, Knights of Columbus baseball League and later umpired for Knights of Columbus Baseball. Over his span of more than 45 years serving youth baseball in Topeka, he organized, served on their Boards and was instrumental in the success of the Topeka Babe Ruth Baseball League, Topeka Connie Mack Baseball League, Sunflower Stan Musial Baseball League, and Tee-Ball League for Knights of Columbus.

1948 Decker Oilers

During the late 1940s and 1950s, the Decker Oilers team was a perennial contender for the state semi-pro title, competing each year in the state tournament. In addition to winning the championship in 1948, the Decker Oilers placed second in three consecutive years (1950-1952) and finished third in 1955 and 1957. The Decker Oilers qualified for the national tournament by winning the state semi-pro baseball tournament the previous month. Members of the team include: Paul Perry, Paul Jay, Junior Coffman, Ed Coffman, Sid Jamison, Fritz Brown, Hal Senne, Butch Nixon, Bill Heleker, Leonard Worthington, Vern Coffman (manager), and Don Kirkwood.