- Greg Wille
DREAMS REALIZED: TC's six D-I signees include Chestnut to A&M, Holland product Spinn to Sam Houston
NEXT-LEVEL GUYS: Temple College's baseball program on Wednesday celebrated its six players who signed with NCAA Division I programs last week: second baseman Travis Chestnut (left) with Texas A&M, outfielder Joseph Redfield and shortstop Zane Spinn with Sam Houston State, outfielder/designated hitter Clark Henry with Texas-San Antonio, right-handed pitcher Davis Pratt with Purdue and lefty pitcher Hudson Luce with Texas Tech. Other than newcomer Luce, all the players are sophomores who helped the Leopards of head coach Craig McMurtry compile a 39-16 record during the 2021 season. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
When Travis Chestnut and Zane Spinn were graduating from high school in 2020, both had plenty of desire to play NCAA Division I baseball. However, Chestnut was small in stature at a self-reported 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds, and Spinn came from a small-town high school program in Class 2A Holland.
Temple College gave both middle infielders not only an opportunity to grow physically and develop their all-around skills but also a platform to show four-year college programs how they can perform on the diamond.
Now, taking the junior college route has helped them get to where they wanted to be all along.
TC celebrated the signings of second baseman Chestnut with Texas A&M and shortstop Spinn with Sam Houston State on Wednesday afternoon at Temple College Pavilion along with the other four Leopards players who signed with Division I programs last week: outfielder/designated hitter Clark Henry with Texas-San Antonio, outfielder Joseph Redfield with Sam Houston State, right-handed pitcher Davis Pratt with Purdue and lefty pitcher Hudson Luce with Texas Tech.
Chestnut, Spinn, Henry, Redfield and Pratt are sophomores who helped Temple go 39-16 in 2021 and finish as runner-up to rival and eventual NJCAA Division I national champion McLennan in the Region V North tournament in May. Luce is a freshman newcomer for the Leopards of longtime head coach Craig McMurtry.
Chestnut, Henry, Pratt and Redfield were selected for the Texas/New Mexico NJCAA All-Star Game in late September. All six signees will move on to their four-year programs after TC’s 2022 season.
The speedy Chestnut didn’t receive the four-year offer he was looking for when he graduated from Pflugerville, but he’s grateful that his time in Temple has led to joining Texas A&M’s Aggies in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference.
“In high school I had one goal in mind, and that was to play in Omaha (in the College World Series). That was something I always wanted to do and that’s what I pushed myself to do,” said Chestnut, who as a TC freshman last season batted .324 with four home runs, 10 doubles and three triples, drove in 28 runs and collected a team-leading 35 stolen bases. “Obviously I didn’t get that Omaha experience out of high school, so I chose Temple to try to pursue my goal.
“Coming here taught me to continue to grow and try to get better. I knew this was the right program for that. Every coach here works with you and they want the best for every player here.”
Last season Chestnut teamed up with fast, slugging shortstop Seth Stephenson, who was the Hitter of the Year in the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference and now plays for Tennessee in the SEC.
Now 5-8 and 160 pounds after achieving large gains in TC’s strength program, Chestnut is excited about his future in College Station. He’ll be playing for Jim Schlossnagle, who’s in his first year in College Station following a long, successful run as skipper of Texas Christian’s Horned Frogs.
“Pretty much everything he does is what I bring to the table. He said when he was at TCU they had 160 stolen bases (in a season), and that’s the kind of guy I am,” said Chestnut, who’s been timed as fast as 6.22 seconds in the 60-yard dash. “He said we have the green light on (stealing) second base no matter what. He wants guys to be aggressive and he’s big on running. He said the one thing he likes the most is that I create havoc, and everything I do creates what he wants.”
Chestnut said Dallas Baptist and other programs showed recruiting interest in him, but he quickly decided that Texas A&M was the ideal situation for his future.
“Nobody wanted to make anything official. A&M called me and said, ‘Hey, what do we need to do?’ So I ended up going on a visit and after I talked to all the coaches, it was exactly what I wanted,” said Chestnut, who plans to major in psychology and minor in marketing. “All the coaches there, I feel like they’re amazing and they do exactly what I need.”
Last season Spinn served as the understudy at shortstop to Stephenson and played in 13 games, batting .130 (3-for-23) with three RBI and seven walks. The Holland product’s major breakthrough came when he played summer baseball in Kansas for the Great Bend Bat Cats of the wood-bat Sunflower Collegiate League.
Spinn’s combination of summer success, emergence during TC’s fall workouts and growing into his current 6-4, 200-pound body – thanks to weight training and eating – attracted the attention of recruiters from several four-year programs. However, a visit to Sam Houston State’s campus in Huntsville made Spinn’s final decision fairly simple.
“I was talking to Texas State, Purdue and UTSA, but when I went down to Sam on a visit, I really fell in love with it and it really felt like my kind of environment, coming from a small town,” Spinn said. “I’ve actually probably played over 20 games there throughout (high school and travel baseball).”
Spinn said this past summer was crucial to his development and earning the scholarship offer from third-year head coach Jay Sirianni and Sam Houston State.
“I’ve actually been talking to Sam since I was about 16, but they weren’t sure if I could transition because I did come from a really small school. And then last year, they knew (Stephenson) was in front of me,” said Spinn, who bats left-handed and throws righty. “Really, I just made a point that this past summer I was really going to go out and try to put up numbers, and I got to play over 50 games, which was basically like a whole other season.
“I played ball all summer and then a bunch of people were coming out and watching me in the fall. Sam saw me then and felt I was really athletic for how big I am, and that kind of intrigued them. They want me to play shortstop there.”
Spinn credited McMurtry and Temple assistant coaches Frank Kellner and Nathan Train for helping him grow and become a Division I signee.
“I believe I have developed significantly in my time here, and that doesn’t happen without great coaches,” Spinn said. “I’m thankful I get to be around great coaches like McMurtry, Kellner and Train. My game has improved greatly because of it.”
Spinn is continuing a family tradition by signing to become a student-athlete at a four-year university in Texas. His older brother, Seth, also a former multi-sport star for Holland, played two seasons of baseball for Temple before producing a stellar career at Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville. His older sister, Zoe, is a junior who competes in high jump at Division I Abilene Christian. Zane Spinn said watching his older siblings has provided “big-time” inspiration in his athletic career.
“With them two coming through first, I feel like that really helped me out a lot. It always made me feel like I’ve got shoes to fill and it always made me work a little harder,” said Zane Spinn, who’s considering studying construction management at Sam Houston. “Ever since I’ve been growing up, I’ve wanted to play D-I college baseball. I feel like that’s most people’s dreams, but it’s something I definitely wanted to work toward and achieve.”
Spinn will be joined in Sam Houston State’s winning program by his TC teammate Redfield, the Waco Midway grad who had a strong freshman season for the Leopards. A fast, left-handed-hitting outfielder, Redfield (6-2, 180) batted .344 with seven doubles, four triples, 33 RBI and 13 steals in 43 games.
“As a player, you want coaches who don’t just want you for who you are, but for who you can be,” Redfield said. “Just like here at Temple, Sam Houston’s coaching staff believes in me to be better than I am and I believe in them to help me do so.”
Said Spinn: “I’m going over there and we’re going to be living together. That’s someone I have a relationship with and that’s always a cool deal. I was excited when I made my commitment that we’re going to be there together. That’s a big deal to me.”
Henry’s original school was Angelina, but the Lufkin junior college decided not to compete in athletics during the 2020-21 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That led to the Houston Memorial grad coming to Temple, which proved very beneficial for the Leopards.
The 6-foot, 195-pound designated hitter/left fielder batted .381 with five homers, eight doubles and four triples and drove in 37 runs on his way to earning first-team all-conference and all-region awards.
“Coming here has allowed me to meet lifelong friends and be coached by some of the best baseball minds I’ve been around,” Henry said. “I’m excited for my second year at Temple because I feel like we have a team that has a chance to be extremely successful.
“Making the decision to commit to UTSA was an easy one,” he added. “After talking to the coaches I realized the potential and the trajectory their program was heading and it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Pratt emerged as a key member of Temple’s pitching staff last season, going 3-0 with a 3.32 earned-run average in 14 games and posting 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. The 6-3, 195-pound Pratt, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, has an opportunity to join the Leopards’ starting rotation this spring before he moves to West Layafette, Indiana, to compete for Purdue’s Boilermakers in the Big Ten.
“Temple College has been a huge stepping stone for me. Over my two years here I have been able to change the course of my baseball career for the better,” Pratt said. “We are loaded with talent this year and continue to push each other every day. That is a big reason why I chose to play at Purdue. The coaches there have an incredible amount of knowledge about the game, and the players in the program are hard-working guys like myself.”
The 6-7, 210-pound Luce graduated from Humble Atascocita in 2019 and originally signed to play at junior college powerhouse San Jacinto. After spending some time away from baseball, Luce joined Temple’s program this fall and the southpaw has demonstrated great potential with his size and high-velocity fastball.
“Hudson figured out that he really did want to play baseball again. When you’re a left-handed pitcher who’s 6-7 and throws in the low- to mid-90s, people take notice, for some reason,” quipped McMurtry, a former major league pitcher.
After pitching one season for the Leopards, Luce will head to Texas Tech in Lubbock to join head coach Tim Tadlock’s successful Red Raiders in the Big 12.
“Coming to Temple College has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Being able to create great relationships and also competing at a high level has made it the perfect program to be a part of,” Luce said. “I chose Texas Tech because I love their program as a whole. Combining the coaching staff, facilities, atmosphere and overall success of the program made being a Red Raider a very easy decision.”
With the six signees’ teammates, coaches and family members looking on, McMurtry commended them for what they’ve achieved thus far and encouraged them to continue to focus on giving maximum effort and seizing opportunities.
“These are some of the hardest-working guys we have on this team, and we as coaches are proud of them and look forward to the success they’ll have in the future,” McMurtry said. “This is a big step for you guys, but you still have to go out and work hard."
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