HARKER HEIGHTS — As soon as the pens went down, the caps came on and the deal was done.
With the formality of signatures behind them, a trio of Harker Heights senior baseball players was able to do what they gathered there to do, ripping out the cardboard liner and donning the new, flat-brimmed purple and white caps.
Knights catcher Tyler Keller, infielder Cody Plagens and pitcher Kyle Randall were joined by former outfielder Tylor Bigby as the quartet signed letters of intent Friday to continue their baseball careers at Texas College, a NAIA program in Tyler.
“We’ve watched the guys above us do it and to take off that package and put the hat on, it was just relieving to know we actually did it and we set an example for the kids under us,” Randall said.
Bigby, who graduated from Heights in 2011, is transferring from North Lake Junior College after redshirting this past season.
Plagens finished second in hits (22) and runs scored (23) and was third on the team with a .303 average and .400 on-base-percentage. Keller batted .250 and was third on the team in both RBIs (17) and fourth in hits (23) and singles (16).
Randall (5-3) had a team-leading 2.35 ERA and 58 strikeouts and 33 walks over 53 2/3 innings in 13 games.
The Heights foursome joins a contingent of Killeen-area players Steers head baseball coach Freddy Rodriguez has recruited to Texas College in recent years. Rodriguez grew up in Killeen and is a 1993 Ellison graduate who played under Knights head baseball coach Glenn Cunningham.
“Central Texas is my home and this is a place I like to recruit, and coach Cunningham being here and being my coach has made it easier for me to step in and get the high school athletes that he’s put through his program,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just excited that coach is still coaching and (I’m) able to recruit (his players).”
Sophomore pitcher Chris Burroughs of Copperas Cove and sophomore third baseman D.J. Fisher of Ellison are both currently on the Texas College roster. Rodriguez also recruited Cove’s Israel Riley and Ellison’s Jose Hernandez, who’s now playing at North Lake College, in 2011.
“We feel like we already have a connection with (Rodriguez) playing for the same head coach, he knows what we feel like and as soon as we (visited campus) he talked to us about how he likes to treat his players like family,” Randall said. “And that sold me on him.”
Of course, while the fresh hats were cool, it’s the opportunity to go into college together that Keller, Plagens and Randall will cherish forever.
“I just think it’s really cool because when high school comes, some friends split up, and then college comes, they definitely split up, but I’m going into college with two of my best friends — its unbelievable,” Keller said.
Randall added: “We have a strong bond here and to go off to college together and make it even stronger is just a great opportunity for us and I think we’ll do well together. We’ll just take some of this magic that we made here and take it to Tyler.”
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566