High School Baseball

Ten years later, bonds still strong for Dunbar’s state-champion baseball team

Paul Laurence Dunbar baseball coach Seth Knight showed his state championship ring from the 2007 season.
Paul Laurence Dunbar baseball coach Seth Knight showed his state championship ring from the 2007 season. jmoore@herald-leader.com

Paul Laurence Dunbar honored its 2007 state-title baseball team before its home game against Ballard as part of the Fayette County Invitational Tournament on Saturday.

Judging from how they interacted with one another, you wouldn’t know it’d been 10 years since they took the field together. That camaraderie is why they believe they were able to do something no other Lexington public school has done since.

And why they joked that they could still get the job done Saturday afternoon.

“We were joking around in the huddle while we broke it down for old time’s sake, ‘Let us play, we’re ready all to play,’” said Tyler Back, an All-State first baseman on that squad.

Thomas Royce, a senior pitcher on the team who went on to star at the University of Louisville before playing in the Chicago White Sox organization, admitted that he and his teammates are probably more fragile now than they once were. There’s “not as much oil in the knees anymore,” he said with a grin.

Winning 38 games (tied for fourth most in state history) and winning the school’s second state title in five seasons was special, but now the moments between the ballgames stand out more.

“We were inseparable off the field and that’s what I look back on and remember,” Royce said. “Winning the state championship and all that was great, but now that we get all together 10 years later … it’s nice to remember the times we had playing Call of Duty in Tyler’s basement.”

Seth Knight, now the head coach at Dunbar, was an assistant on that squad. He was happy that most of the team was able to gather and reminisce. Sixteen members went on to play college baseball and three were drafted by major-league clubs, but he concurred with his players that it was their off-field fondness for one another that pushed them to where they got in high school.

“A lot of them still see each other and remain best friends, and when you get the group back it’s the same as it always was,” Knight said. “It’s that special bond they had as a team that pushed them over the top to go along with the talent. It was an incredible team to coach.”

“Looking back on it now you definitely realize we had something special,” said Chris Wood, the state championship MVP that season. “It was one of the most memorable times in my life.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps