Birmingham, Ala. - Featuring former standouts from Southeastern Conference member institutions, the SEC Baseball Legends Presented by AT&T will once again be honored at the 2015 SEC Baseball Tournament May 19-24 at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala.
"The SEC Baseball Legends Presented by AT&T allows us to honor the deep tradition and history of baseball in our league," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. "We are grateful to our friends at AT&T for helping to continue to make this program possible."
The 2015 class features Andy Phillips, Alabama; David Eckstein, Florida; Mark Johnson, Texas A&M and Larry Schmittou, Vanderbilt. Four legends are recognized each year, with representatives from Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn and Kentucky set to be honored in 2016.
The 2014 class featured Phil Garner, Tennessee; Jake Gibbs, Ole Miss; Jay Powell, Mississippi State and Bobby Richardson, South Carolina, while the 2013 class honored Hal Baird, Auburn; Terry Shumpert, Kentucky; Skip Bertman, LSU; and Gene McArtor, Missouri. The inaugural class in 2012 included: Dr. Jeffrey Laubenthal, Alabama; Kevin McReynolds, Arkansas; Brad Wilkerson, Florida and Rev. Reggie Andrews, Georgia.
"AT&T is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the SEC Baseball Legends program," said Jamie Kerr, Director, AT&T Corporate Sponsorships. "We're happy to help honor these great coaches and former student-athletes for their feats on and off the field."
Each legend will be recognized individually throughout the two quarterfinal matchups on Friday and will have on-field recognition and an awards presentation by Commissioner Slive on Saturday, May 23, during the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Fans will have an opportunity for autographs and photos with the honorees at the AT&T Legends Pavilion immediately following. The Legends will also participate in the annual SEC Youth Clinic on Friday morning.
ANDY PHILLIPS - Alabama, Infield: 1996-1999
Phillips is one of the most decorated players in the history of Alabama baseball. A member of coach Jim Wells' first signing class, Philips rewrote the Alabama record books and in the process took the Crimson Tide baseball program to new heights with three trips to the College World Series in his four-year career. That impact was not limited to the Crimson Tide baseball family, as his talents were recognized nationally by writers, broadcasters and professional scouts. A consensus All-America selection as a senior, Phillips was named the 1999 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association District III Player of the Year and finished runner up to Baylor's Jason Jennings for the 1999 Dick Howser Trophy, presented by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association to the best player in college baseball. Florida State's Marshall McDougal, Cal State Fullerton's Spencer Oborn and Rice's Mario Ramos also were finalists for the Howser Trophy, named for the former Florida State infielder and Kansas City Royals manager. Phillips also was named first team All-American by the NCBWA as well as being a member of the 1999 NCBWA Super All-American squad. In addition to the NCBWA honors, Phillips was named first team All-American by College Baseball Insider and was a third team All-America selection by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and the American Baseball Coaches Association. The Demopolis, Ala., native wrapped up his Alabama career as the school record-holder in eight career statistical categories, including most games played (244), games started (224), at-bats (905), runs scored (222), total hits (322), home runs (61), RBI (224) and total bases (590). He also ranked second in career doubles (63) and triples (11), and was third in assists (537) and 10th in walks (86). As a senior in 1999, Phillips set the standard of excellence for Crimson Tide baseball. He played in 64 games and batted .398 (103-for-259) with 22 home runs and 66 RBI. He added 71 runs scored, 22 doubles, 30 walks and 16 stolen bases for an Alabama team that captured the SEC Tournament Championship and finished third at the College World Series. Phillips also set Alabama single-season records for total bases (203) and set records for most home runs (22) and RBI (66) by a shortstop at Alabama. The former Tide shortstop also set the SEC record with a 36-game hitting streak during his final season at Alabama, breaking the old standard of 33 games set by LSU second baseman Todd Walker (1993). During his record-setting hitting streak, Phillips batted .407 (66-for-162) with 17 home runs and 45 RBI. In 1998, Phillips was named the Sporting News National Player of the Week (April 1, 1998), after hitting .500 (8-of-16) with six runs scored, three home runs and 11 RBI in wins over Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State. Phillips was just as successful off the field, earning his degree from Alabama in 1999, while being an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is an accomplished singer. Twice during his career, Phillips sang the National Anthem prior to a Crimson Tide home game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. A three-time All-SEC selection, Phillips also was named to the 1999 SEC Good Works Team for his many hours of community service Following an 11-year professional baseball career, which included five seasons in Major League Baseball, Phillips returned to Alabama as the hitting and infield coach, beginning with the 2011 season. His MLB debut came in 2004 for the New York Yankees and he homered on the first pitch he saw as a Major League player. Phillips played for the Yankees from 2004-07, before playing his final season in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. Prior to returning to Alabama, he played two seasons in the Nippon Professional League in Japan.
DAVID ECKSTEIN - Florida; Infield: 1994-97
While attending Florida, David Eckstein became the only two-time Academic All-American in Gator baseball history (1996, 1997) and earned first-team All-America recognition in 1996 and third-team honors in 1997 from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association (NCBWA). A two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection (1995, 1996) and three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll (1995-97) recipient, he finished his career among the UF career top 10 in 11 categories. Eckstein was a key component of the 1996 Florida squad that captured the SEC's Eastern Division and regular-season titles on its way to the NCAA East Regional championship and a berth at the NCAA College World Series, where the Gators finished third. He sported a .338 batting average that year with 60 RBI and nine home runs and set single-season school records for hits (102, since broken) and at bats (302, still stands). Eckstein hit for the cycle against Georgia State on Feb. 10, the first UF player to turn the trick since 1984, and also tied the previous high-water mark of nine RBI in that outing. He established a school record with four doubles versus Bethune-Cookman on April 10 and swiped four bases in a 12-9 victory over NC State during the East Regional. Over his four years donning the Orange and Blue, Eckstein played in 199 games and made 190 starts. His career average was .340 and he still ranks among the top 10 in fielding assists (675, first), double plays (142, tied for third), hits (276, fourth), stolen bases (93, second), hit by pitches (41, third), runs scored (222, third), doubles (51, tied for sixth) at bats (812, tied for eighth), total bases (412, ninth), and triples (8, tied for 10th). In addition, he led off the first inning with a homer eight times in his collegiate career. The Gators made three NCAA Tournament appearances during Eckstein's tenure. Eckstein was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 19th round of the 1997 amateur draft, and selected off waivers by the Anaheim Angels in August 2000. In 2002 as a member of the Angels he led the major leagues with three grand slams. At the end of the 2004 season, Eckstein was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where he was named to the 2005 and 2006 National League All-Star teams and earned MVP honors in the 2006 World Series. He joined Toronto as a free agent before the 2008 season and also played with Arizona and San Diego before retiring in 2012.
MARK JOHNSON - Texas A&M; Coach: 1984-2005
Johnson is the all-time winningest baseball coach in Texas A&M history and served as the Aggies' head coach from 1985 through 2005 compiling a record of 876-431-3 (.670) in Aggieland. Johnson came to Texas A&M and served as Coach Tom Chandler's top assistant in 1983 and 1984. Johnson led the Aggies to the College World Series in 1993 and 1999, won five conference championships, reached the NCAA playoffs 13 years and advanced to the regional championship 10 times. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 1993 by The Sporting News, coached the USA Baseball team in 1999, named a six-time conference Coach of the Year and coached 11 first-team All-Americans and 61 All-Conference selections. A member of the American Baseball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame (2001), Texas Baseball Hall of Fame (2002), FCA Baseball Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award in 2007 and inaugural recipient of the ABCA "Ethics in Coaching" Award in 2008. Johnson would go on to serve as the Sam Houston State baseball head coach from 2007-11 and led the Bearkats to three straight Southland Conference championships and to NCAA post-season play in 2007-08-09 and eclipsed the 1,000 victory plateau before retiring at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Johnson and his wife, Linda, currently call College Station home within easy driving distance of grandchildren.
LARRY SCHMITTOU - Vanderbilt; Coach: 1968-78
Schmittou changed the mindset about Vanderbilt baseball in Music City during his 11 seasons as head coach of the Commodores. He inherited a program that had won only 13 games in the three years prior to his arrival in 1968 and he immediately began giving Vanderbilt fans more to cheer about. His teams won eight games in 1969, 12 in 1970 and just three years into his tenure, the Commodores were SEC East champions with an 11-5 SEC worksheet, 34-19 overall. Schmittou's team would go on to win four consecutive SEC division championships and the 1973 and 1974 teams also won the Southeastern Conference titles. He earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in each championship season. Through 11 years of coaching, Schmittou led his teams to a 306-252-1 (.548) overall record and a 98-98 (.500) SEC record. He coached 20 All-SEC performers, eight all-south regional honorees and seven academic all-conference players. Twenty-one of Schmittou's players would play professionally. During his collegiate coaching tenure, the Commodores won more games than any other SEC school and Vanderbilt was one of only two schools to win four division titles. From 1978 to 1996, he owned several minor league baseball teams, beginning with the Nashville Sounds. He served as the Vice President of Marketing for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball club from 1983 to 1986. In 2006, Schmittou was elected to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nashville Sports Council in 2011. Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt, Schmittou was a highly successful sandlot coach in Nashville, winning 500 games, 20 city championships, eight state championships, and made six appearances at national finals. He resides in Brentwood, Tenn.