Diamond 9: Carl Junction, Central Missouri’s Danny Powers

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For former Carl Junction High School and University of Central Missouri baseball standout Danny Powers, there are a handful of reasons why he found so much success, especially in NCAA Division II, where he was a multiple Pitcher of the Year, College World Series champion and authored a no-hitter. Among the biggest influences were his parents.

“My best mentors were my parents,” Powers said. “They always taught me to compete and that everything I was to get in life had to be earned. They also made me a priority in their lives.  Even when I got to college, they rarely missed a game.”

Now the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will soon recognize Powers for his stellar career, as it will present the former pitcher with a Diamond 9 award during the annual Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.

It’s set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 25 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. Sponsorship tables of eight ($400), head table tickets ($100), and individual tickets ($40) are available – along with congratulatory ads – by calling 417-889-3100.

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Powers’ award is part of the Hall of Fame’s big baseball celebration: A 9 a.m. unveiling of a larger-than-life bronze statue of West Plains native and former Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon is set at the Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive. Afterward, five individuals will be inducted at the baseball luncheon:  Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow HS, Negro Leagues), former Westran, Sturgeon and Jamestown high school baseball/softball coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo/St. Louis media), and Mark Stratton, the former coach at Glendale High School and Drury University.

The Diamond 9 awards presented by B.J.’s Trophy Shop consist of former high school, college and pro standouts who made a positive impact in the sport.

A 2001 Carl Junction High School graduate, Powers was All-State twice, as an outfielder his senior year and pitcher his junior year. He starred at the University of Central Missouri, securing the Mules’ 2003 NCAA Division II College World Series championship by pitching the title game – part of his 7-1 record in D-II Tournament games. In 2005, Powers was the Pitcher of the Year in D-II, Region and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) – and the Rawlings/ABCA National Player of the Year. That season, he was voted the MVP of the Central Region Tournament.

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Powers still holds UCM records for single-season wins (15), single-season strikeouts (129 in 2005) and career strikeouts (277). He also ranks second in career wins (31) and single-season innings pitched (113 in 2005). A First Team Academic All-American, Powers pitched four seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization. An inductee of the MIAA and Central Missouri Athletics halls of fame, he is now the head coach of the Neosho High School baseball program.

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“The reason I got into education and became a coach was because my high school football coach, Todd Hafner,” Powers said. “He really got me to buy into ‘team-first’ mentality. I entered education and coaching so that I could have an impact on a student’s life in a similar fashion.”

Few probably know that Powers, despite all of his success, had his challenges – and overcame them. None were more important than the middle of his junior season.

“The turning point in my career was against Pittsburg State my junior year,” Powers said. “I was coming off several nagging injuries, and I hadn’t thrown well. I got moved to the bullpen in the middle of my junior year after going 10-0 the previous season and getting two wins the World Series (including the championship game). After two weeks of throwing out of the bullpen, I got a spot start mid-week against Pittsburg State. I knew something was different warming up in the bullpen. Everything seemed simpler.”

The story got even better.

“I couldn’t miss a spot with my fastball, and a new slider I had been working was sharp and easy to throw for a strike,” Powers added. “I ended up throwing my first no-hitter of my college career. Everything just seemed to click all at once. After that, pitching was much easier. From that moment, I went 22-2 over the rest of my career.”

Overall, the Diamond 9 features: Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), , Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).