Sports

Under the radar baseball players top State College of Florida's 2015 Hall of Fame class

MANATEE -- David Howard hit .280 his senior year at Sarasota Riverview, but he wasn't overlooked by former State College of Florida baseball head coach Tim Hill.

Howard parlayed his time at the then-Manatee Community College into a successful professional career where he played seven seasons for the Kansas City Royals and two years for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Robin Jennings, who operates two small businesses in Park City, Utah, came after Howard at SCF. Like his predecessor, Jennings wasn't originally thought of as the can't-miss prospect.

Yet he made his way to Major League Baseball, spending four seasons with four different teams. His longest tenure was three seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

Now those two will enter SCF's Athletic Hall of Fame on Thursday at IMG Academy Golf and Country Club alongside Stanley Cromartie and Brian Newberry.

Cromartie, the father of New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, played basketball at SCF under legendary coach Harry Kinnan.

Newberry, the program's longtime equipment manager and is credited with starting sports information at the school, is being inducted posthumously after passing away unexpectedly last May.

"He was a guy that on Alumni Weekend, before they'd go see coach Hill Sr., they'd be looking for Brian Newberry," SCF Athletic Director Matt Ennis said. "We haven't had a staff member go into the Hall of Fame in quite awhile outside of coaches. I think it'll be a powerful evening for a lot of us. Any Hall of Fame night is an emotional roller coaster. You've seen grown men come to tears about what it means. And then the next minute, we're all laughing as a group together. That's what a family does. I think that's what Hall of Famers

bring to the community and why they're members of the Hall of Fame."

For Howard, who is the minor league field coordinator for the Boston Red Sox, it'll be his first trip back to SCF in years and a chance to give thanks to Hill.

"I spread myself pretty thin in high school with track and basketball and baseball," said Howard, whose father Bruce played in the majors and his older brother played at the University of Georgia. "I never really focused on baseball as my ultimate sport, but I was injured in my senior year and didn't have a great senior year. Ended up turning it on with some great summer league/Babe Ruth league tournaments and Coach Hill paid attention to that. I got a good scholarship. I went there and he was a huge influence on my development as a player. It was the first time I had ever focused on one sport. His guidance, the way he held us young, coming out of high school 18- and 19-year-old kids it was what a lot of us needed. And I've always looked upon that, even when I made the Major Leagues, I always remembered that."

Jennings also gives credit to Hill, who is also in the college's Hall of Fame as well as the National Junior College Athletics Association Baseball Hall of Fame, for helping him reach the big leagues.

"I wasn't expecting it, that's for sure, but it's a real honor especially with the tradition our program carries," Jennings said. " Between my high school coach, Danny Lee, and Coach (Tim) Hill), they were probably the two strictest disciplinarians and role models through my entire career. I don't want to say pro ball was easy by any means, but as far as work ethic and doing things right way, I really didn't need to be told how to do things the right way after having Coach Lee and Coach Hill as my coaches."

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