By Steve Lansdale
AUSTIN, Texas — As he gears up for the start of his second season as the head coach of the University of Texas baseball program, which has its first practice Sept. 30, David Pierce has announced the creation of six awards to given to UT players for exceptional performances during the previous season. All of the awards are named for former elite Longhorn players.
Outfielder Travis Jones, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in this year’s Major League Baseball was named the recipient of the James and Huston Street Award. Named after the father and son who both excelled while playing for the Longhorns, the award “was created to recognize the player who most embodies what it means to be a Longhorn through leadership, selflessness, and integrity both on and off the field.” James Street was a two-time baseball All-America who also helped UT win the 1969 football national championship; his son, Huston, is a three-time All-America who still holds the program record for career saves with 41.
"When you talk about Texas Athletics, James and Huston Street are always a part of the conversation,” Pierce said. "I’m proud to announce Travis Jones as the first recipient and representative of these two great Longhorns. Travis showed tremendous grit and determination to be his best every day. His consistent play and the respect he earned from his teammates and coaches exemplifies this great accomplishment. Congratulations to Travis and thank you to James and Huston Street for your many contributions to The University of Texas.”
Toronto Blue Jays draftee Kacy Clemens picked up two awards: the Brooks Kieschnick Team MVP and the Keith Moreland Offensive Player of the Year award. Kieschnick was a three-time All-America, a three-time conference Player of the Year and twice won the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given annually to the nation’s top college player. Moreland also earned All-America honors and conference Player of the Year recognition three times. He hit a gaudy 388 over his career, was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 and into the Omaha College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.
“Brooks Kieschnick and Keith Moreland are two of many great Longhorns that have represented Texas Baseball,” said Pierce. “The pride that both players have for the university and Texas Athletics outweighs their great accomplishments, which are second to none. It is easy to announce Kacy Clemens as the recipient for both awards. The son of Roger Clemens represented the Horns as the best player on the 2017 team. Kacy led the team in most offensive categories, played great defense and even swiped a few bags. A heady player, Kacy’s knowledge of himself and the game allowed him to be our most valuable player in 2017.”
A second-round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Morgan Cooper won the Greg Swindell Pitcher of the Year award. Swindell was a three-time All-America and all-conference player, and was named Freshman of the Year by Baseball America. He was elected into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, struck out a UT-record 501 batters and still holds the all-time NCAA Div. I record with 14 shutouts in his career.
Award finalist. Swindell was elected into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 and recorded a school-record 501 strikeouts in his storied career. His 14 career shutouts are still an NCAA D-I record.
“The recipient of the Greg Swindell Pitcher of the Year Award (is) Morgan Cooper,” Pierce said. “‘Coop’ is a true Texas Longhorn and carried the torch as the leader of the pitching staff last season. Greg Swindell showed dominance in his time at Texas, as did Morgan Cooper. With his blazing fastball and an arsenal of off-speed pitches, Morgan gave his team a chance to win every outing.”
In his first season at Texas, shortstop David Hamilton was named the recipient of the Spike Owen Defensive Player of the Year award after helping the Longhorns rack up a fielding percentage of .982, the fourth-highest total in the country.
“The all-time great Spike Owen was arguably the best defensive player to ever wear a Texas Longhorns uniform,” Pierce said. “Spike gave pitchers a sense of comfort knowing he would secure everything hit his way. The recipient of the Spike Owen Award (is) our slick-fielding shortstop David Hamilton. As a true freshman, David played with great awareness, anticipation and instincts that helped lead our defense from the 207th-ranked defense in the country to the fourth-ranked.”
The Sean Braswell Academic MVP award is given to the Longhorn who excelled in the classroom. Braswell was a 1998 recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award that is widely considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships.
Pitcher Jake McKenzie, who enters the 2018 season as the lone senior on the Longhorns roster, appeared in 10 games on the mound and 20 games in the field for Texas in 2017. A petroleum engineering major, McKenzie was previously named an engineering scholar by the dean of the world-renowned Cockrell School of Engineering.
“Writer Sean Braswell was truly a student-athlete in his time at Texas,” Pierce said. “Jake McKenzie has followed Sean’s lead with his dedication to academics and athletics. He has taken full advantage of the rigorous academics in the UT engineering school and has performed extremely well. As a true utility player with the ability to play all nine positions, Jake has mastered time management and commitment to both the Longhorns baseball program and his engineering coursework. Congratulations to Jake for being honored with the Academic MVP award.”