A quartet of Muskogee High School baseball players and Roughers coach Johnny Hutchens will be part of a youth team competing in the Senior League Regional Tournament later this month in Sequin, Texas.
The local contingent are members of the Oklahoma Rays, an organization started by Hutchens, who begins his third year at Muskogee High School in the fall.
The four players include Caleb Webb, Pryce Jackson, Antonio Zapata and Gio Zapata. They will play in the Senior League regional tournament, scheduled for July 19-24. Seguin is 34 miles northeast of San Antonio.
“It’s my hope that this will shed a good light on the baseball program at Muskogee,” Hutchens said.” Those four kids are the kind you want to build your program around.
“They do things the right way and that’s not to say the other kids don’t. But these four do what we ask and we’re looking for them to be the leaders of our team next year.”
The four players were chosen based on their statistics during the spring for the Roughers, Hutchens said. Webb hit .420, while Antonio Zapata hit .350, while Jackson hit .320 and Gio Zapata recorded a pitching win against Stillwater in the regional tournament in the spring. Antonio Zapata also played in the prestigious Sun Belt Classic.
Gio will be a sophomore this season and the other three players will be juniors.
“Their statistics were comparable to anyone as they played in the highest level (Class 6A) of high school baseball in Oklahoma,” Hutchens said.
Hutchens has been trying to rebuild Muskogee’s baseball program. The Roughers were 3-29 in his first year and even though they finished 9-21 in the spring, they beat Stillwater in the first game of the regional tournament. The Fort Gibson High School graduate sees the selection of the four as another shot of good news for the program.
“They’ve got the opportunity to not only represent Muskogee but also the state and I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “We’re trying to do stuff all of the time to bring a little more community excitement about baseball. We’re trying to build off that momentum (of the regional tournament) and keep things going in the right direction.”
Hutchens has had his own success in baseball. After playing for coach Randy Smith at Fort Gibson, he played on the 1998 national champion Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kan.
The Oklahoma Rays have six baseball teams (10-under through 16-under) and three softball teams as part of their organization.
Hutchens’ work isn’t finished with the quartet’s selection.
“We’ve got a large task ahead of us but the kids we feel good about the kids we have in the program now,” he said. “They work hard and it’s all a credit to those guys. They’re buying into what we’re selling as coaches and that’s all we can ask.”