During Tuesday evening’s banquet, Lee senior pitcher Jeremy Bales was named the winner of the NCCAA’s top baseball award, the Hank Burbridge Outstanding Christian Leadership Award.
Bales is the second Lee athlete to capture a major NCCAA award during the 2013-14 athletic seasons. In the NCCAA women’s soccer banquet in November, Leah Fortune was selected as the winner of the prestigious Michelle Akers award. He has also enjoyed an superb year on the mound, being a major part of Lee’s 33-17 record and solid fourth-place finish in the Gulf South D2 Conference and the NCCAA Mid-East Region title.
Hank Burbridge was the longtime baseball coach at Spring Arbor University and mentor/leader in NCCAA as well as NAIA baseball. “I am honored to be considered in the same category of a great coach, person, and man of God,” said Bales after receiving recognition.
The purpose of the award is to honor the NCCAA’s Outstanding Christian Baseball Player of the Year with potential Christian service through baseball. In order to be eligible for this award, a student-athlete must be at least a junior; possess and demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities; possess and demonstrates outstanding athletic ability; and possess and demonstrate a vibrant and clear Christian testimony, on and off the field.
“Words cannot describe how blessed and honored I am to win this award. God continues to show how faithful he is to me every day,” explained Bales. “This award excels above any other award that I could ever win because it is an award for spiritual leadership, baseball, and academics. I have a passion for the game of baseball and love every part of it, but ultimately it is the perfect platform for serving Christ through baseball, and that is exactly what I want to do. If I can serve Jesus Christ and play baseball at the same, then that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”
Added Bales, “I am thankful for all my coaches at Lee who have served as coaches as well as Christian mentors to me during my time at Lee. They have helped shape the Christian that I am today.”
Lee head coach Mark Brew nominated Bales and was thrilled when the award winner was announced by Tom Roy of the Unlimited Potential organization and the tournament chaplain.
“Jeremy has been a leader on and off the field in our program for two years,” said Brew. “He is an outstanding young man of the highest character. He is very mature in his faith and his testimony, which he has shared with our team and on mission trips abroad.
“Jeremy is one of the most impactful players I have ever coached. He has a heart for service to others and has been front and center in our team service projects each semester. Additionally, he is the spiritual leader for our team, leading pregame devotionals, and does an awesome job of being transparent with our players. I am extremely proud of him and he will be an awesome representative of what the Hank Burbridge Unlimited Potential’s Outstanding Christian Leadership Award stands for.”
The Flames opened NCCAA World Series play today at 11 a.m., facing a dangerous Toccoa Falls, Ga., club. Pool play continues at 4 p.m. when Lee plays its second game of the day against Lancaster, Pa.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lee senior pitcher Jeremy Stawychny was selected a second-team NCCAA All-American.