By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
A signing ceremony for Missouri Southern-bound Brett Graham, Joplin High School’s slugging third baseman, was held on Thursday.
The right-handed batting Graham, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, capped an outstanding senior campaign by being named the Ozark Conference player of the year, delighted Eagle coach Kirk Harryman pointed out.
There was no doubt that Harryman, a former pitcher for Warren Turner’s Missouri Southern Lions, was pleased with Graham’s decision.
“I’m thrilled being a Missouri Southern guy,” Harryman said. “Sure, it’s exciting to see him go to Missouri Southern. I know he’s excited about the success of the Lions under Coach (Bryce) Darnell.”
NCAA Division II Missouri Southern won the MIAA Postseason Tournament and was 34-22 overall this spring.
Added Harryman: “I believe Missouri Southern got a real good baseball player.”
Graham, who hit .580 in the Ozark Conference as a senior, also was named winner of the inaugural Wendell Redden Memorial Most Valuable Player Award for baseball. Being a Redden relative made that award more special for Graham.
Graham, also all-Ozark for the Eagles as a junior, was a three-year starter. He hit fourth in the Joplin order as a sophomore, Harryman said, before occupying the third slot as a junior and senior.
Brett, named after former Royal great George Brett, said he listened to offers from several schools.
“Overall, though, Missouri Southern always was No. 1,” he said. “I get the opportunity to play in the Joplin community a while longer. I get to play for an outstanding program.”
Graham indicated he understood the challenge of contributing to the Lions as a freshman.
“It would be great to play as a freshman,” he said. “I’ll work hard to make that happen.”
Graham, who had three home runs and 27 RBI as a junior, averaged .425 as a senior with 13 doubles, five homers and 30 RBI. The Eagles finished 13-12 overall and 4-5 in the Ozark.
Graham, as a senior, also appeared in four games as a relief pitcher. He was 2-0 and didn’t allow an earned run.
Brett, the son of Becky and Randy Graham, is planning on a career in education/coaching.
The Grahams have several relatives from Fort Scott with extensive experience in baseball. The younger Graham has a cousin, Drew Graham, who pitched in college and pro ball. Uncle Daryl Graham was baseball coach at Fort Scott Community College for five years.
Brett Graham is playing American Legion this summer with the Joplin Miners. They’ve opened 3-1 under Drew Schulte.