PDT Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Wheelersburg coach Michael Estep said after his Pirates won their second-straight baseball championship during this spring’s state championships, there have not been as many opportunities to come together.
Friday night represented one of those seldom occasions as for the second time in as many years, the Cincinnati Reds invited the Wheelersburg club to Great American Ballpark and honored the team, this time prior to Friday’s three-game series opener with the San Diego Padres.
“We enjoy spending time together outside of baseball,” Estep said, mentioning that one of the only previous chances this group came together was at a recent picnic.
It was two months ago Thursday that Camron Parsley’s slide to home capped off a 5-4 comeback win for the Pirates over the Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs for the third state championship in school history. The win put an exclamation mark on a 29-4 season in which the senior class left with a 116-11 record and Derek Moore capped off his historical career with an unblemished 36-0 mark on the mound, the first of his kind in state history and fifth-best all-time nationally.
Estep shared a story when he spoke earlier this summer to a local Kiwanis club. One thing in particular stood out in his mind from his speech was the four-year mark of the seniors.
“When you look at their record…it’s remarkable,” Estep said.
Moore, who will start classes Aug. 19 at Shawnee State along with fellow teammates Derek Arthur, Zach Brown, Michael Diddle and Clay Massie, said the experience of being recognized for a second time by the Reds was a valuable lesson.
“It’s an unreal experience,” Moore said. “It’s an honor and it shows you the incentive to play harder.”
Massie, who was a three-year varsity letterwinner along with Moore, echoed the sentiments.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to go twice,” Massie said. “Being around those professional baseball players is pretty awesome.”
Arthur was gushing about the return trip to the Queen City.
“It means everything to be back here again,” Arthur said.
Despite being on the squad for one season, Diddle felt it was a childhood dream to be on the field.
“It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Diddle said.
Brown, who was at the plate when Parsley dashed from third, felt the trip was filled with plenty of emotions, realizing it was one of the few times this group will get together once again.
“It’s sad because it’s over because it’s the last time we’re together, but it’s surreal” Brown said. “It’s something you’ve dreamed of as a kid.”
The last of the six seniors, Ben Arnold felt blessed for the experiences and put things in perspective. He is the lone member of the group to attend a different college as he will be attending Ohio University’s main campus in Athens.
“It’s not every day that a player wins a state championship, let alone two,” Arnold said.
The team left Wheelersburg at 1 p.m. and took a pit stop in Batavia for an early dinner before the squad arrived at the ball park, where the Cincinnati organization announced the players in front of the crowd of 30,288. Cincinnati Reds scout and Wheelersburg native Gene Bennett, who aided in the recognition process, was unable to attend according to Estep.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.