Jan. 19, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. -
A utility player that found a home as the team's designated hitter in 2013, Western Carolina senior Luke Gragg has been selected this season's "Leggett No. 7 Legacy" player as chosen by head coach Bobby Moranda and the Catamount baseball coaching staff. Gragg, who also plays in the outfield, will wear the No. 7 jersey which was made famous at WCU by former coaching great, Jack Leggett.
Moranda announced the selection of Gragg for the annual honor at the "Celebration of Catamount Baseball" banquet held Saturday (Jan. 18) on-campus at the University Center. WCU athletics historian Steve White - who was involved in the original hiring of the honor's namesake, Jack Leggett, prefaced the presentation before Moranda presented Gragg with the jersey.
Gragg is the fourth player to wear the legacy honor. Former Catamount catcher Stephen Notaro was the first recipient in 2011 with left-handed pitchers Vance Chavis (2012) and Morgan McKinney (2013) also donning the No. 7 jersey in their final seasons.
The annual program was introduced by Moranda at the first "Celebration of Catamount Baseball" banquet held in conjunction with the 2011 season-opening weekend. The WCU coaching staff selects one player each year that is committed to keeping with the principles and integrity established by the former Catamount skipper during his tenure.
"Among the many great past individuals that have influenced the success and the prestige of Western Carolina baseball, Jack Leggett stands out above most. His legacy lives on here every day," said Moranda of the Leggett Legacy tradition. "Every season, we will name one player who exemplifies what it is to be a Catamount baseball player and that deserves to wear the No. 7 jersey to honor the foundation laid by Jack."
Gragg enters his final season in Cullowhee with a career .307 batting average, averaging 28 hits per season while playing in an average of 43 games in his first three years. Last season, he started a career-best 35 games while seeing action in 52 of the Catamounts' 59 games, recording a career-high 26 RBI.
A native of Moravian Falls, N.C., Gragg epitomizes the grit and determination which Leggett was known for during his tenure at WCU. Gragg has earned the reputation among his teammates as being a tough out at the plate each time he steps into the box - which the statistics back up with a career .425 on-base percentage and only 44 career K's in 270 career at bats.
"(Luke) is unbelievable," said Moranda of Gragg during the public presentation. "You're talking about a kid who had no other offers coming out of high school. A lot of people said (Luke) was too small to play at the NCAA Division I level. But, I give Assistant Coach Alan Beck a lot of credit - he said, `this kid can hit.' He came to our campus and sure enough, he can; he can really hit. He's become a feared hitter in our league."
Moranda added, "He is an amazing kid, an unbelievable teammate. He will do anything and everything for his teammates; puts his team and his teammates first. And those are among the reasons he will wear the number seven jersey this season."
To earn the honor of the "Leggett No. 7 Legacy," a Catamount baseball player must have a passion for the game of baseball; show total intensity daily; do more with less; use adversity as preparation for greatness; and be committed to the ideals of T.E.A.M. by displaying: T-Toughness, E-Effort, A-Approach to find a way to M-Make it Happen.
The first year, Notaro wore the honorary jersey No. 7 as the first honoree in the Leggett Legacy. He hit .335 overall that season, and finished second to Catamount teammate Ross Heffley in the SoCon in hitting in league games only a season ago at .394 with six home runs and four doubles with 28 RBI. In 2012, Chavis donned the No. 7 jersey, finishing the year with 28 appearances to rank second on the team. The Laurinburg, N.C., native posted a 2.08 ERA through 26.0 innings pitched, striking out 25 batters.
Last season, McKinney scored four wins among his 12 starts, tossing 65.2 innings on the weekend for the Catamounts. He finished with a 4.25 ERA while striking out 52 batters.
Leggett, who is entering his 21st season on the bench with the Clemson Tigers, spent nine seasons in the dugout in Cullowhee, amassing a program-best 302 career victories from 1983 through 1991. He guided the Catamounts to 10 combined Southern Conference championships and five NCAA tournament appearances.
He also helped shape the future of WCU baseball by recruiting and coaching his three successors in Keith LeClair (1992-97), Rodney Hennon (1998-99) and Todd Raleigh (2000-07). Leggett's three protégés combined to win 567 games and a combined eight SoCon titles in 15 seasons, while also capturing five SoCon Coach of the Year honors.
"It is an honor to continue to be remembered in such a manner at Western Carolina," Leggett was quoted as saying about the creation of the No. 7 Legacy. "WCU and Catamount baseball is a big part of my life and coaching career. I am privileged to have that number 7 hanging on the fence at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium, and honored to have a deserving student-athlete wear the number during the season."
During his tenure as an assistant coach at Wake Forest, Virginia and Georgia Tech, Moranda coached against Leggett's Clemson Tiger teams.
Season tickets for the 2014 campaign are on sale now through WCU Athletics Ticket Office. Pricing begins at just $50 for an adult general admission and $25 for a youth for all 30 home dates. Reserved seating options in both field and upper level are available. Call the ticket office at (800)34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or purchase online at CatamountSports.com.
Moranda will release the 2014 team captains the first of next week with the Catamounts scheduled to open team practice on Friday, Jan. 24. Also in the coming days, the Southern Conference will officially unveil the 2014 preseason polls and all-conference selections.
The 2014 Opening Day is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14 as the Catamounts host Ohio for a three-game, nonconference set at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.