By Shari Harris, Publisher
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Baseball and Softball Luncheon will honor the class of 2022 inductees on May 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. Licking High School Baseball 1983-89 era is among this year’s inductees.
Licking native Byron Hagler coached the Wildcats during that period, and his teams finished in the Final Four of State competition in six of seven seasons. State Championships were won in 1988 and 1989, and Licking finished as state runner-up in 1983 and 1985, and third in 1986 and 1987. Hagler amassed a record of 348-94, with 13 district titles in his 15 seasons at Licking (1979 to 1994).
“It is indeed a privilege to receive this award and I am very proud to have received it,” says Hagler. “But the biggest reward was hearing pure joy and excitement in the players’ voices when they heard they were going to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. This honor is a TEAM Hall of Fame honor. I just happened to be the coach of a great group of athletes and young men who established a winning era and tradition.”
Hagler reported a favorite memory was winning the first state championship in 1988. It was the fifth trip to the final four, with two second and two third place trophies brought home previously. A journalist asked Coach Hagler how it felt to finally be the bride and not the bridesmaid.
“I felt a lot of relief when that third out was recorded in 1988 and I finally got to ‘throw the bouquet’ instead of catch it, like I had done the past four times,” says Hagler.
In reflecting on his years as a coach at Licking, Hagler said, “Winning was not always the most important thing. Preparation, effort, attitude and being a good teammate was vital to the success of any team, win or lose.”
“Never give up, give it your best shot and there are no losers,” he added. These tenets he passed on to his players led to their successes on the field and in life.
Players from the era of teams being honored succeeded in baseball and other sports, in college, professionally, or as coaches, in the military, in careers, in trades, in owning and operating businesses, in raising families, and in much more. The honors being bestowed by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame adds to the lists of accomplishments for the players and coaches of the Licking High School Baseball 1983-89 era.