By Todd Martin
In a final burst of high school athletic competition and community service, a select group of Class of 2018 graduates claimed victory in a traditional all-star game that transcended sport.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes Victory Bowl conducted its baseball and softball games for the third time this year on the adjacent athletic fields at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Softball and baseball games included 62 recently graduated high school athletes and 12 coaches from a wide area of Central Texas from Killeen and Copperas Cove to Temple and Belton as far away as Hillsboro and Corsicana representing small and large public and private schools.
The FCA Super Centex Victory Bowl games included the 10th annual football game, fifth annual volleyball and first-ever golf tournament, all in Waco. Selected cheerleaders and band members also took part.
The athletic competitions were merely the most visible portion of the week of fellowship, service and competition.
Students chosen based on coach's recommendations, stayed in host homes and for three days practiced, participated in team building activities and took part in service projects in the communities where the games took place. The students also managed to share their meals together and even relax at a water park. Each day also included a devotional time.
In the baseball and softball games, teams divided into the red and blue all-stars, with participants wearing their high school caps with the FCA uniform.
The team members quickly gelled to form something different than a group of athletes trying to win a game.
This year's roster included Bo Buckley and Julian Jasmin of Killeen High School on the blue baseball team and Tre Martin of Harker Heights High School on the red baseball team.
In the Waco-based games, selections included Anthony Ybarbo of Shoemaker High School in golf and Joseph Lowe and Ozias Wright of Shoemaker, Zarek Roberts of Ellison, Taunty Motu of Harker Heights and Vrashon Walker of Killeen High in football.
Julian Jasmin of Killeen High School said it was an honor to represent his school on the all-star baseball roster. "So far, it's been great. I'm looking forward to this today," he said Thursday at the Love of Christ pantry in Temple.
Victory Bowl participants cleaned and organized at two food and clothes pantries in Temple. At one site, players used a power sprayer to clean grocery carts and other items.
Jasmin is headed to Frontier Community College in Illinois to continue playing baseball. He said the week of service and competition was a welcome activity, focusing more on the mental and spiritual aspects of life and not just the physical nature of sport.
On Wednesday, following a picnic dinner beneath the shade trees alongside the UMHB fields, Buckley and Martin agreed the all-star game was an exciting way to end their high school athletics experience.
"It was unexpected," said Buckley of his selection. "It's an honor. FCA is a great organization. This is a chance to meet new people and to grow closer to the Lord."
The former Roos athlete played third baseman and pitcher and also played football for Killeen High School. He said the chance to extend high school athletics was too good to pass up.
"I've already met a lot of people and it's cool to be part of this team, one of the few selected," he said. "I've always had a passion for football and baseball." As a student at Texas A&M University, he said he hoped to pursue intramural athletics.
Tre Martin, just graduated from Harker Heights High School, was also practicing Wednesday with the third basemen. He agreed selection to the all-star game was an unexpected honor.
"It's something new I've never experienced," he said. "I get to meet some great people and play in an All-Star game. I'm just going to try to do what I do and make some friends and hopefully have some good chemistry."
On Friday, prior to the games, players served at the Ralph Wilson Youth Club and took part in a coaching clinic for children at nearby Temple College.
While the schedule was more than baseball, the athletes never seemed far from jumping into competition. "You always want to win," said Martin, "but we also want to have fun with it. This is a lifetime experience."
June 11, 2018