/Before he became one of pro baseball’s best, Roy Oswalt was already a legend in Weir

Before he became one of pro baseball’s best, Roy Oswalt was already a legend in Weir

It’s possible to make strong Cooperstown and Baseball Hall of Fame cases for Mississippian Roy Oswalt. But there is no doubt Oswalt belongs at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, located on Lakeland Drive in Jackson. Induction ceremonies will take place Aug. 3, at the Jackson Convention Center, in Oswalt’s first year of eligibility. Oswalt was a top-tier pitcher from his Major League rookie year in 2001 with Houston Astros until his retirement in 2013. Oswalt was an All-Star three times, twice a 20-game winner and five times a Cy Young Award top five finisher. He was well-known for his toughness and competitiveness, as well as his ability to perform at his best in the most difficult games. He was named the MVP of the 2005 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed only two runs in 14 innings and beat the Cards twice. He was also the pitching star for the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team. His career statistics — 163-102 record, and 3.36 career earned runs average — are comparable to those of many others already inducted at Cooperstown. Oswalt, who is now a Starkville resident, was a long-standing legend in Weir. Because of his right arm’s strength and accuracy, they started a baseball team. Tiny Weir High school, which is no longer in existence, was well-known for its outstanding football program that won six state championships. Oswalt was both a safety and a wide receiver for the 1994 Weir state champions. Oswalt now 41 says, “We allowed seven yard total offense in state championship game.” “I think it’s probably still an amazing record,” Oswalt, now 41, says. But Weir was a thin 10th-grader with an arm like a rocket and had never had a team of baseball players until Oswalt arrived. When he was 15, he could throw 90 mph and weighed in at a staggering 140 pounds. Oswalt chuckles, “That’s how the story goes.” My dad was a strong advocate for the change and helped to get it before the school board. It was passed. They passed it. My dad, a logger, cleared some trees and we formed a team.” The first Weir team played 16 matches. Oswalt pitched in 14 of these. Oswalt said, “I don’t recall our record, but it was good enough to make the playoffs.” “We reached the playoffs every year for three years. Oswalt graduated at 17 years old, at 5′ 11” and 150 lbs. A guy who would win 163 Major League games later, Oswalt, at 5 feet, 11 inches and 150 pounds, was not recruited to a major college or drafted by a professional high school team. Holmes Community College offered him a half scholarship. Holmes was a friend to Joe Gant, his football coach at Weir. Holmes helped him grow two inches and gain about 20 pounds. His fastball soared from a 90-95 mph to a 97/98 mph. He caught everyone’s attention. The Houston Astros drafted him after his freshman season. Mississippi State also signed him to a letter indicating their intent. He was signed by the Astros before the draft, for almost first-round money. Oswalt said, “I had always wanted pitch for State, but it wasn’t too much money to refuse.” Oswalt was pitching well at that time, and it took him four seasons to reach the Major Leagues. Oswalt was 14-3 in his rookie season in 2001, and he quickly rose to be one of the best pitchers in the game. Oswalt looks lean and muscular and throws 93-94 mph in four innings against college wooden bat league all stars last summer in Kentucky. Oswalt laughed about it. On that, Oswalt says: “I’m like Toby Keith (country music singer). He said that he could do it once but not twice. Oswalt said that he misses being on the mound and holding the ball. He also missed having the ability to control a game. I will always be missing that. But, I don’t miss traveling. “I like having all my clothes in one place.” Oswalt also works on his two farms in Lowndes County and Unionville, Mo. Oswalt is a Mississippi State fan, particularly baseball and has worked with Bulldog pitching legend JT Ginn in recent times. “Baseball is still a part of my life. It always will be.” *** Friday’s guest: Richard “Possum”, Hall of Fame football player and larger-than-life individual.