By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director
Just a few hours ago, I put out a news release announcing the 2013 Washington and Lee Athletic Hall of Fame class. It’s always fun to release the new group of inductees, but this year is truly special to me.
I arrived at W&L in July of 1998 and helped induct my first hall of fame class that September. The 2013 class will be the 16th that I will see inducted into the hall. Not to trivialize those who were honored or the experiences we’ve all had at the dinners (not to mention all the alcoholic drinks consumed at the cocktail hour preceding the dinner), but the Hall of Fame weekend was always more about running a good event and checking it off the list at an always busy time of year.
This all sort of changed with the induction of the 2010 class. There is a 10-year waiting period after receiving a degree until any athlete becomes eligible (five years after leaving their position for a coach or administrator) and 2009 was the first time that any athletes I witnessed would have been eligible.
Karin Treese Bauer ’99 was inducted as part of the 2010 class and was the first athlete from my time at W&L to be elected. Nothing against the countless fine athletes, coaches and administrators that I had personally helped vote into the hall, but the 2010 inductions were special because I knew Karin. I watched her play, kept her stats, and got to know her as a maturing young woman. It was fun to see the woman she had become and meet the family she helped to create. For me it was like coming full circle listening to Karin talk about her playing days and how they helped develop her into the amazing person she has become.
I always knew that I would be excited to see certain athletes make their way into the Hall of Fame many years later. In truth, when I watched Karin play soccer and lacrosse during the 1998-99 school year, I had never imagined I would still be here to see what would happen more than a decade later. But the fact that I am makes it all so much more meaningful.
Karin was joined in the Hall by Mikel Parker ’99 in 2011 and Lindsay Ruckert Mutimer ’02 in 2012. I also saw Mikel play for one amazing season, while Lindsay was the first athlete inducted in which I witnessed her entire four-year career. Few are more deserving than those two and I so enjoyed seeing the people they have become.
And so that brings me to the 2013 Washington and Lee Athletic Hall of Fame class. A five-person group consisting of four athletes and one administrator, all of whom I witnessed making a tremendous impact on this University.
Christian Batcheller ’00
Christian Batcheller ’00 was a terrific football and baseball player and went on to play both sports professionally. His raw athletic ability and tremendous skills were undeniable and he was truly the first athlete I saw at W&L who I knew without a doubt should go into the Hall the first year he was eligible. It took just a few more years than I thought, but only because waiting a little longer isn’t always a bad thing. The truly remarkable thing about Christian? Even after being drafted to play professional baseball and spending the summer of 1999 with the Williamsport Crosscutters (my hometown team BTW), Christian returned to W&L that fall to play quarterback for the Generals. Russell Wilson aside, how often has that happened?
Matt Dugan ’01 is simply put the most amazing offensive lacrosse player that I have ever witnessed playing at the Division III level. He was impossible to stop and I’ll never forget a goal he scored against Gettysburg in the quarterfinals of the 2000 NCAA Tournament in which he caught the ball by extending his stick in one hand and then proceeded to fire the ball on cage in one motion. I only wish I had video. The goal helped avenge the Generals’ only loss of the season to that point, before W&L fell in one of the all-time great games ever played to Salisbury the next week by a score of 10-9. We all knew the next season would be even better, but in truth my heart still aches following a freakish loss to Hampden-Sydney during the one season that no at-large bids were available. The Generals, led by Dugan and other greats who will surely be enshrined soon as well, were left at home for the NCAA tournament despite finishing 14-1 and spending a majority of the season as the No. 1 team in Division III.
Eloise Priest Southard ’02
Eloise Priest Southard ’02 was an absolute beast. The description hardly fits to look at her – she seems more likely to be competing in pageants than athletics. Don’t let the looks fool you, however. Priest Southard was simply bigger, stronger and more determined than her opponents. When then Head Coach Jan Hathorn moved her from the midfield to defense following her rookie season, a star was born. Few players ever scored on Priest Southard and I credit her as one of the players that helped deliver the women’s lacrosse program to a higher plateau than had once existed. In 2001, she helped lead the Generals to their first conference title in three years and W&L went on to claim six titles over the next seven years.
Erika Proko Hamilton ’03 was a fine tennis player. In fact, she was more than fine, she was a superstar. However, when I think of Erika, I see the perfect student-athlete more than just the athlete. Not only was she nearly unbeatable on the court (92-20 in singles and 104-27 in doubles), but she claimed a crazy good GPA as a neuroscience major. She also served as the chair of the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year. In one word, Erika was driven to succeed. She strived to become a doctor in order to help others. I had no doubt she would succeed even then. Today, she is Dr. Erika Hamilton and works at the Duke University Medical Center. Pretty darn impressive.
Mike Walsh served as athletic director from 1989-2006. Mike’s impact on the athletic department is hard to measure. Sure, you could point to the addition of sports and upgrading of facilities and introduction of new coaching positions just as I did in the official press release. The thing is, I’m not sure that is an accurate measuring stick. Mike’s election to the Hall is more personal to me even than the athletes I have described above. He was more than a co-worker and friend – he was a mentor. Don’t get me wrong, Mike and I had our disagreements and I’m sure there are many others that share a similar story. Mike is a classic Northeasterner – blunt and opinionated and that can certainly rub people the wrong way. But Mike also taught me more than I could ever express and I would dare say I’m far from the only one. If not for Mike, I would have never known the four athletes I’ve described above. He was one of the people who hired me. There were others on the committee and I hope that they all liked me just the same, but without Mike I’m not sure I ever sit at this desk. In truth, my hiring may have been as arbitrary as a former intern at James Madison who knew a sports media relations work study student there named Anne Walsh. Mike once told me that his daughter’s recommendation could never help me, but it sure could have hurt me. I’m glad she had good things to say about an ambitious and naïve 23-year old who wanted to be an SID if only someone would give him a chance. For that chance and so many things he has taught me, I am very thankful.
So now you know why this year’s W&L Athletic Hall of Fame class is so special to me. The memories of this group are so strong and I can’t wait to share the special weekend with them!