The Herald-Leader's 2005 All-City baseball team was stacked with talent, including future Mr. Baseball winners Chaz Roe and Ben Revere, who signed pro contracts out of high school, and nine other first-teamers who went on to play in college.
Scott Napier was the lone exception. As a senior at Tates Creek, he played shortstop, hit .423 and got an offer to play at Centre College.
But he had other ideas.
"To be honest, I'd been playing baseball for so long, I wanted a different take on life," he said.
So he went to the University of Kentucky as a regular student and had a part-time job in an accounting department at a Lexington business.
"That's when I realized I didn't want to spend the rest of my life sitting behind a desk," he said.
Then came a life-changing moment.
In the summer of 2006, Napier was watching TV coverage of Hezbollah's attack on Israel. "That's when it just kind of hit me," Napier said. "I looked at the Marine Corps as a back-up plan to do more with my life."
The reaction of his parents, Tom and Angie Napier? "They told me it was a man's decision, my decision," Scott said. Within days he had signed on with the Marines and was headed to Parris Island, S.C., for boot camp as an infantryman.
In October, 2007, Napier was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. "It was a lot more challenging that I expected," he said.
He returned home in May, 2008, and friends asked him to compare his war experience to a video game. "I'd tell them, 'How can it be like a video game?' "
Now Lance Corporal Napier is preparing for another deployment to the Middle East. While most of his All-City peers are still wearing baseball uniforms, packing bats and gloves and dodging inside fastballs, Napier is wearing camouflage and body armor, packing around 100 pounds of equipment and a rifle and dodging bullets.
"There's not a day I regret joining," Napier said. "Somebody's gotta do what we do.
"Everyone here in the States takes the world for granted, but we've got to fight for what we have."
At one time Napier thought about trying college ball when his Marine days were over. That's no longer an option. The saying goes that one year as a grunt Marine is like four years in the NFL.
That's OK with Napier.
He had fun playing high school baseball, but it doesn't begin to compare with the pride and patriotism he feels in defending his country. He remembers Dom Fucci, his coach at Tates Creek, yelling at the team, "You think this is pressure. There are guys in Iraq getting shot at today. That's pressure."
That's Scott Napier.
■ Rockcastle County Coach J.D. Bussell is touting senior lefthander Tanner Perkins as Mr. Baseball. The 6-3, 195-pound senior has bounced back from an ACL injury he suffered in football last fall. He's 6-1 with a 0.61 ERA, 117 strikeouts and only six walks in 57 innings. He had 16 K's in a 4-0 win over Pulaski County in the district. He plays right field when he's not on the mound, and is hitting .448 with nine homers. In his career he has a 26-10 pitching record, with 377 K's, 40 walks and a 1.10 ERA in 222 innings. Bussell expects Perkins, who has signed with Western Kentucky, to get drafted by the pros next month. "His best attribute is that he's the best kid/teammate/player I have ever coached," Bussell said in an e-mail. "With his make-up and stats, he qualifies to be Mr. Baseball."
■ Woodford County baseball coach Jay Lucas was flooded by e-mails and calls on Wednesday — more than when he coached Woodford County's girls to a region basketball title a few years ago. What was the deal? His Yellowjackets upset No. 15 Western Hills and ace J.T. Riddle 4-3 in the district semis.
"I've been coaching here 26 years (18 as head coach), and this was one of the biggest wins we've ever had," Lucas said.
Western Hills beat the Jackets twice in the regular season, one of those a 5-1 victory by Riddle. But Woodford County got nine hits off Riddle in the rematch. Seniors Bradley Lucas and Omohundro Hunter had key RBI. Freshman Will Wireman pitched into the fourth before Josh O'Reel finished up the shocker. This has been a rebuilding year for the Jackets, who start four or five freshmen. But that didn't keep Woodford County from qualifying for the 11th Region, which starts Monday at Applebee's Park.
■ The 11th Region semifinals and finals will be broadcast on Internet radio by Gary Ball and Mike Ritchie. The Web site link: www.11thregionsports.com.
■ Covington Catholic star Luke Maile hit three home runs in a district rout of Beechwood, giving him a school-record 29 in his career.
■ Bardstown went into the district baseball tournament with a 1-17 record, including 14 losses by mercy rule. But the Tigers scored five runs in the seventh to rally past 20-game winner Bethlehem 10-8.
■ Seventh-grader Dale Gumm, son of North Hardin Coach Greg Gumm, improved his pitching record to 7-1 with a district win over Fort Knox. Gumm has 45 strikeouts in 39 innings this year.
■ Knott Central has had an amazing turnaround in baseball. After going 2-25 last year (almost half the losses were by mercy rule), the Patriots are 22-4 and district champs under first-year coach Jamie Couch.
■ Harrison County won its baseball district for the 26th time in 29 years. Mac Whitaker's Thorobreds (21-9) have won at least 20 games for 28 years in a row.
■ Patrick Johnson, a five-year starter for Pendleton County, will play college baseball at the University of the Cumberlands.
■ Brandon Turek, who played soccer for Tates Creek in the late 1990s, is the Commodores' new boys' coach. He succeeds Bo Lankster, who is switching roles to coach Tates Creek's girls. Turek, 28, said, "It feels pretty incredible. This is a heck of an opportunity. This has been a top program, and it's still a powerhouse. I want to try to get it back to where it was in the 1980s when Tates Creek won several state titles."
■ Larry Welch is the new football coach at South Laurel. He was Laurel County's interim coach in the mid-1980s and a former head coach at North Laurel.
■ Russell Burkhead, a Washington County graduate (1982) and a basketball assistant the last six years, is the Commanders' new coach.
■ Katie Moore of Leslie County will be the only sixth-grader competing in the state track meet this weekend. In 2005, KHSAA rules mandating that students had to be in at least the seventh grade to compete in high school track. The only exception would be if a student had previously competed in a regional. Moore ran for Leslie County in the region as a third-grader, which means she's eligible to anchor its 400 and 800 meter relays in the state.
■ Dave Fraley, who was named Knott County Central boys' basketball coach this week, said his return to the game "is a good thing, an exciting thing. I'm following my heart. I want to coach." Fraley hasn't been on the sidelines since he stepped down as Pulaski County coach in 2006. He left with 637 victories, including the 1986 state title. Fraley always figured he'd coach again, and Knott Central was the perfect spot for a comeback. "I'm sort of mountain people, and I like that area," he said. "And they've got some good players." (Including Stuart Stamper and Tate Cox.) Fraley, 66, said he never thinks about his age, "not even as a number. To me, it's a white-black thing. You're either alive or dead. It's not an aging thing."
■ Defending state champ Holmes, Ballard, Clark County, Eastern, Fairdale, Iroquois, Knott Central, Seneca, Shelby County, Tates Creek, Trinity and Warren Central will play in the King of the Bluegrass boys' basketball tournament Dec. 17-22 at Fairdale. Two featured players will be Zeke Chapman, who plays for Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral and is the son of former UK star Rex Chapman, and Louisville signee Josh Langford of Huntsville (Ala.) Jo Johnson.
■ Tanner Mobley and Charlie Schaffer, who helped Dunbar win two region golf titles, will play in college — Mobley at Campbellsville, and Schaffer at Loyola of Chicago.
■ Woodford County's Tina Kirk will play college soccer at Kentucky Wesleyan.
■ Demolition of Lafayette's Ishmael Stadium is scheduled to begin in August to make room for a new football/soccer/track facility that will have artificial turf. The project is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2010 season. To see what the new digs will look like, go to www.lafayette.fcps.net and click on the "renovation" link.
Mike Fields covers high school sports for the Herald-Leader. Reach him at (859) 231-3337 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.