Ozark Baseball, Essick Inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
The Ozark School District hit two homeruns at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Baseball Luncheon May 24 as both the Ozark High School baseball program and Head Coach Mike Essick were honored.
“So many kids in today’s world search for identity and inclusion, and Ozark baseball has provided that for thousands of young men who aspire to be part of the program,” Scott McGee said before accepting the award on behalf of Ozark baseball. McGee is a former Ozark baseball player and assistant coach, and is now an opposing head coach at Willard. “All of us were taught skills that improved us for many years after we finished playing in that program. At high school you were able to leave a legacy that is remembered far after you were gone. Every group of players, managers, families and coaches has advanced the program into what it is today. Those contributions matter when a program is as successful as the Ozark baseball program is.”
More than 75 current and past Ozark baseball players and coaches were recognized by name during the event, held at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.
"Seeing all the former players and coaches speaks to how special the Ozark baseball program is,” said Jeremy Brownfield, OHS principal and former assistant baseball coach.
According to the Hall of Fame program, the Ozark High School baseball program has been among the state’s best since the 1970s, with the coaching lineage tracing back to Jim Nichols in the late 1970s followed by Wayne France, Terry Writer, Mark Wheeler and Mike Essick.
The OHS baseball team has reached the state playoffs 10 times and advanced to the Final Four seven times. Ozark won state championships in 2004 and 2008; finished as state runners-up in 1979 and 1981; finished third in 1990 and 2002; and fourth in 2011. Ozark also has won 10 district titles and 19 Central Ozark Conference championships.
“Ozark baseball has raised the level of play for everyone in the state of Missouri,” McGee said. “As you reflect on your experiences with Ozark baseball, I hope that all of us realize how fortunate we were to be part of such a tremendous experience. It made all of us better as people. And now so many of us are out in other parts of the world, making other people better. Ultimately that is what Ozark baseball has always meant to me — a program that made everyone around it and part of it better.”
After Missouri Sports Hall of Fame President Jerald Andrews presented McGee with the award and recognized everyone involved with Ozark baseball, he introduced the next inductee: Mike Essick.
Essick, who is now 449-210, has been Ozark’s head coach for 24 years, taking four clubs to the Final Four and winning two state championships. He has received numerous awards through the years, including two Coach of the Year honors in 2004, and he was inducted into the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association in 2014.
“The game of baseball, for the most part, has been my life. But it doesn’t and will never define me,” Essick said during his acceptance speech. “I’m sure most of you here today associate my name with the game but my hope is that I am remembered for more than that. Nobody will ever care how good of player you were or how many games you won, but they will always remember how you acted and how you treated them.”
OHS Athletic Director Yancey Little said Essick’s award is well deserved.
“Coach Essick is a great baseball coach, but more importantly, he impacts the lives of his players by helping them become responsible, driven young men,” he said.