ON SPORTS: UHV's Hawkins determined to make most of senior season
Jan. 30, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
UHV coach Terry Puhl had a good idea about Deric Hawkins the ballplayer.
Puhl wanted to know about Hawkins the person before giving him the chance to play baseball for the Jaguars.
Hawkins played two seasons at San Jacinto College before sitting out a year.
He played in 10 games at Northwood University last season before being suspended from the team.
Puhl had to make sure he was getting a player he could count on when he learned Hawkins was available from senior Corti Wilson.
Hawkins and Wilson played baseball together in Houston.
"We had the talk," Puhl said. "I told him he doesn't want to be one of those guys when he's 30 or 35 who looks back with regrets."
Hawkins insists he got the message and will be starting in center field when UHV opens the season with a doubleheader against Wiley College on Sunday at Riverside Stadium.
"He told me don't be one of those guys that should have or could have," Hawkins said. "He said don't be one of those guys that's telling all the good stories. He said be the guy that makes something happen out of all those stories."
Hawkins has shown the ability to be productive on the field since graduating from high school at St. Pius X in Houston, where he also played football and basketball.
"Baseball is where the money is at," Hawkins said. "I've been playing baseball all my life. Baseball is in my heart."
Hawkins wasted no time showing he made the right decision.
He hit .402 with a team-leading 21 home runs during his freshman season at San Jacinto.
He was a second-team all-American selection and was named to the Region XIV South all-conference team.
Hawkins' power numbers trailed off his sophomore year, but he still hit .380.
He knew the hitting coach at Northwood and performed well before being sidelined by off-the-field issues.
Hawkins hit .412 with four doubles, one home run and 12 RBIs and was named the Red River Conference's Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 13-19.
"Coming from San Jac, you're playing with the best of the best," Hawkins said. "It might be a little different, but it's pitching and you still got to hit it. You've got to see it and you've still got to hit it."
Puhl didn't need much time to be convinced of Hawkins' physical skills.
"I asked him if he could run," Puhl recalled. "He kind of laughed and said, 'Coach, I can run.' He's got all the tools. He looks like a ballplayer. He can do all aspects of the game."
Hawkins was thankful to have a place to play and liked Puhl's approach to the game.
"He told me to come over here and play my heart out," Hawkins said. "He said, 'Don't worry about your past. I just want you to come here and play. We have a free atmosphere and always have fun.' That's how I like to play the game is to have fun."
Hawkins has enjoyed getting to know his new teammates while he adjusts to his surroundings.
"I came in the fall and met them," he said. "I met them again now and I like where it's going. Watching these guys swing and seeing how hungry they are it seems like a chance for a better year."
Hawkins understands the chance to play baseball in the future depends on how he performs during his senior season.
A scout has already stopped by Riverside Stadium to look at him and he's hoping more will follow.
"I want to get an opportunity. That's all I can ask," Hawkins said. "This is my last year. I'm more hungry and ready to play."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.