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The ninth annual Leland Hot Stove Banquet is
6:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the North Brunswick High School auxiliary gym. Ticket prices are $20 and they will be on sale at the door. If interested in reserving tickets, call Nelson Best at 619-7023, Gary Rabon at 620-1886 or Carter Rabon 4470-0253.
Gary LaRocque, special assistant to the St. Louis Cardinals’ general manager, and Tom Austin, head baseball coach of Methodist University, will be the guest speakers. Winners of scholarships will also be announced.
LaRocque’s 32-year career in Major League Baseball has included stints as a Minor League Baseball player, manager and coach. He was named Manager of the Year in the Pioneer League in 1981 and Gulf Coast League in 1983 while managing in the Los Angeles Dodgers system.
Upon a move into the Dodgers scouting operation in 1989, he served as an amateur scout and regional scouting supervisor for nine seasons before being hired as director of amateur scouting for the New York Mets in 1999.
A resident of North Carolina, LaRocque was a professional scout for the Mets during the 2007 season. Before that, he was vice president, professional scouting (2006) and vice president, player development and scouting (2004-05). While overseeing amateur drafts as part of his many duties for the Mets, he was responsible for the signings of Major Leaguers David Wright and Scott Kazmir.
In 2008, LaRocque was hired to be the Cardinals’ senior special assistant to the general manager. He came to St. Louis after spending the previous10 years in senior management levels for the New York Mets.
Completing his 33rd year as head baseball coach at Methodist, Austin sports a 1,007-435-9 career record and became only the sixth coach in the history of NCAA Division III baseball to reach the 1,000-victory plateau. In his 33 seasons at Methodist, Austin’s teams have never won fewer than 22 games in a season. Included in that are 17 30-win seasons and two 40-win seasons.
The Monarchs have had 33 straight 20-win seasons under Austin.
He has moved up to second all-time amongst active Division III head coaches in victories and to sixth all-time among Division III coaches.
During his tenure at Methodist, Austin has guided the Monarchs to six NCAA Division III College World Series (1986, ’88, ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96), finishing no lower than fifth. Their best finish occurred in the 1995 season, when the Monarchs finished as the national runners-up.
Twenty-nine players under Austin have garnered NCAA Division III All-American honors.
North Brunswick High School senior Jacob Shumate has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Methodist.