‘Always had a blast’Published 8:23pm Saturday, May 25, 2013
Nansemond River High School’s baseball season wrapped up early compared to last year, but senior Tucker Rhoads made sure that the home crowd got one last good show before he left town. Despite the 8-7 district quarterfinal loss to Western Branch High School, he went 2-for-3, including a monster double and a two-run home run, with three runs batted in. The performance inspired the Warriors faithful, and he earned the title of Player of the Week.
He edged out Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior baseball player Jake Grady in the votes, 207-203.
Rhoads gave his take on the Bruins game.
“It started off slow, but towards the middle of the game, it sort of picked up for everybody, especially the seniors,” he said.
Warriors head coach Mark Stuffel said, “He had a huge game. The last four or five games, the seniors — including Tucker (who) was a huge part of it — really stepped up and played well and got us rolling pretty good at the end of the year.”
In addition to the heightened stakes of the Southeastern District tournament, Rhoads was managing another source of tension — the watchful eyes of a scout.
“Coach (Tom) Lowe talked to me the day before and said The Apprentice School coach was coming out, and I tried not to think about that as much as possible.”
Like the Warriors against the Bruins, Rhoads had a slow start this season, but an elbow injury played a significant role as his father, Wayne Rhoads, explained.
“His left elbow, he has fragments of cartilage in there, so he couldn’t work out or anything before the season,” he said. “I don’t know about him, but to me, he just started hitting his stride here the last couple weeks because he couldn’t do any off-season conditioning.”
Rhoads provided a mixed appraisal of his senior season.
“I feel like I could have done a little better defensively, but I think I exceeded my expectations for the offensive end,” he said.
Like many ball players, Rhoads was introduced to the game of baseball at a young age by his father. Both of them remember that it did not take much work to get him into it.
“It was pretty quick,” Tucker Rhoads said. “I’ve always had a blast playing.”
His dad said, “My wife used to hide the ball and bat when he was about 5-6 years old, until I got home so I could go ahead and take a shower after work, and then we’d go outside and play. I think I created a monster when he was younger, and that’s kind of how it started. He was making me play instead of the other way around after I introduced him to it.”
Rhoads played his first organized ball with Bennett’s Creek Little League and continued there until he was 12. He later played for the Nansemond River Pony Baseball League and then a travel ball team, the Mid Atlantic Pirates.
He went on to become a high school player who could come through in the clutch moments.
“Tucker always seemed to get the hits when other people weren’t getting the hits,” Coach Stuffel said. “Early on, he was kind of cold at the beginning of the season, but when Tucker hit it, it seemed like it was usually when we needed Tucker to get a hit. He really did hit the ball in some big situations.”
Rhoads described his motivation to play his best as simply to “have fun, be yourself.”
This approach helped him end his high school career in a way that few players experience.
“His last high school at-bat was a two-run home run,” Wayne Rhoads said.
And along with the home crowd, the coach from The Apprentice School got to enjoy the show, as well.
“From what I understand, he likes what he saw,” Rhoads’ father said.
Rhoads plans to attend The Apprentice School to play baseball.