Student-athletes who get it done on their respective field and in the classroom to a high level are a unique breed, and the best of the best on the baseball diamond were honored with academic all-state distinction by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association on July 11.
The list featured four Sealy Tigers: Arturo Hernandez, Alan Anderson, Clay Roberts and Hunter Havel, all of whom graduated with honors and academic excellence as well as National Honor Society members at Sealy High School’s commencement ceremonies May 31.
That culminating celebration came just after the baseball season ended at the hands of the Liberty Hill Panthers in the regional quarterfinals and although that deep of a postseason run might not have been on the mind of catcher Arturo Hernandez from the get-go, he soon knew this team was different than the rest he’s been on.
“Honestly, I didn’t really expect (the playoff run) because we didn’t have as much talent as we’d had the past couple of years, but you could tell there was something special with this team,” he said. “We were all buddies, we all loved each other, we all motivated each other and we’d do anything for each other and that really made me realize success on the field doesn’t take talent, it takes dedication and love and doing whatever it takes to get the job done and we were an example of that.”
That made things easier on the field and allowed them to get their business done in the classroom, which Hernandez added didn’t quite fly by as easily.
“Yeah it was tough, especially playing year-round with football and baseball there was really no downtime,” he said. “There were nights where we practiced until 7 p.m. and I was up late into the morning doing homework but it was just staying consistent in the classroom and keeping up with everything and I really do feel as though it prepared me for college, I learned what it takes and how to get it done.”
Those thoughts were echoed by teammate Hunter Havel, who similarly suited up for both football and baseball squads and finished No. 3 out of 171 graduating students from Sealy High School’s class of 2019.
“It was hard keeping grades up while playing a sport year-round but that shows off all the hard work and dedication I put into both,” Havel said. “There were a lot of extra hours spent making sure everything got done.”
Those extra hours helped propel a team farther into the playoffs, setting up a couple of familiar matchups.
The 2019 Tigers finished second in District 25 to set up a meeting with the La Grange Leopards, third-place finishers from District 26. A 2-1 win in the best of three series pushed Sealy to the Area Championship, where the fourth-seeded Taylor Ducks, fresh off an upset of District 28 Champion Llano, fell in two games in the first rematch of teams that first met on the gridiron.
That set up another third-round meeting with the Liberty Hill Panthers, who also clashed with the Tigers in the football playoffs earlier in the year taking the Regional Semifinal, 35-21. Liberty Hill went on to fall in the state championship and almost made it back in the baseball tournament.
On the diamond, the Panthers won their district and cruised to the Regional Quarterfinal matchup with Sealy undefeated. They took both games, ending the Tigers’ season there, and eventually fell one step shy of the state tournament, getting swept by La Vernia , which fell to the 4A champion Argyle Eagles.
“It was awesome to go that far but the result obviously wasn’t what we wanted and running into the same team in two sports was a little rough but definitely enjoyed this ride to close things out,” Havel added.
The graduating Tigers also spoke to the notion of ending their high school athletic careers out on the all-state recognition.
“It’s an honor to be recognized with so many other outstanding student-athletes in their sport,” said Havel. “Thanks to my teammates and coaches who helped me by encouraging me, pushing me and getting the best out of me and all of us day in and day out, definitely going to miss them.”
“(The all-state recognition) makes it all feel worth it, grinding it out on the field and grinding it out in the classroom, it can be easy to say you want the recognition but to actually earn it is kind of overwhelming,” Hernandez said. “It really makes it all feel worth it.”
Between his time on the football and baseball fields, when asked what he was going to miss the most, Hernandez noted it will be the relationships he formed.
“I’m really going to miss the brotherhood, my first couple of years was a little tough but that changed when Coach (Shane) Mobley was hired, there was so much buzz around him and he really brought a new feel to the school,” he said. “Thinking back on it seeing the process unveil in front of my eyes almost brings me to tears with how much he was able to change and accomplish.
“I really wanted to thank the new coaching staff with Mobley, Coach (Giles) Montgomery and Coach (Jeremy) Pelz specifically,” Hernandez continued. “Coach Pelz was one of the most motivated, upbeat coaches I’ve been around and you can really tell he loves this team and loves these kids and he gave me a shot no one else really would so he turned into a little bit of a father figure to me and I couldn’t do it without him and want to make sure I thank him.”
They’re both on their way onward and upward, with Havel on his way to Texas A&M where he plans to major in construction science to be a construction manager to help build buildings.
Hernandez noted he had a couple of opportunities to possibly play baseball at the next level but decided to focus his efforts in the classroom and his upcoming marketing and business degree from Houston Baptist University, although he didn’t totally rule out a walk-on effort down the road.