East Carolina University sophomore outfielder Bryant Packard won the Amateur Player-of-the-Year award Tuesday at the 29th annual Pitt-Greenville Hot Stove Banquet.
“Amateur Player-of-the-Year is a big honor,” Packard said. “Especially when my college coach Cliff Godwin was able to be there and be the one to introduce me. I was just honored to be invited, better yet, be awarded with such a great honor.”
Packard’s year included 43 games and 30 starts for the ECU baseball team, batting a .276 average, with 34 hits and 12 runs batted in. The appreciation for Packard’s value was shown by the big applause he received, as well as by the people who came just for him.
Packard was accompanied in attendance by his family and closest friends, Godwin and his staff and his high school head coach Jason Mills and his staff from D.H. Conley High School.
“It was amazing that my parents could be there tonight,” Packard said. “Especially (with) it being their 25th anniversary and my father’s birthday. I know he was excited because he is the one that has been with me for 15 years, teaching me relentlessly alongside my mother who has been very supportive as well.”
Before presenting the award to him, Godwin spoke about Packard. He joked to the crowd about everyone keeping it a secret from Packard until the night begun, with Packard admitting that he didn’t even know he was getting the award until Godwin announced it at the podium.
Godwin also recollected on the process that led to Packard being Godwin’s first recruit to commit to ECU a few days after Godwin had been hired as head coach at ECU in 2014 and his continuing belief in Packard’s success. While watching Packard and his fellow teammate Spencer Brickhouse at batting practice before the season opener at Ole Miss University last season, Godwin said he remembers thinking, “Those kids are freshmen? We’re really going to be in trouble in a few years.”
The appreciation for Packard was followed up by his teammates as well. ECU sophomore pitcher Jake Agnos has been Packard’s teammate and roommate for the last two years and says that him and the other pitches really enjoy watching Packard put on a show in batting practice on the field.
“Packard is the best teammate (and) roommate I could ask for,” Agnos said. “He keeps the game fun and you can always look to him to lighten up the mood.”
Packard also gave back his appreciation to others who have helped him along the way. Notably he included Lance Martin. Martin has been a hitting instructor for Packard since he was 11 years old at the Next Level Training Facility in Greenville. Packard also gave gratitude to high school coach Jason Mills and his staff for coming out to support him and spoke about the contribution they made.
“Millsy taught me the game of baseball for four years, as well as how to be a great person by always holding me accountable,” Packard said.
Finally, Packard acknowledged his closest friends and his family for coming out to surprise him on his award-winning night by thanking them.
The banquet is hosted annually for the Pitt-Greenville Hot Stove League, a non-profit corporation for social activities. The banquet recognizes individuals and present awards: Amateur Player-of-the-Year, Charles Williams Volunteer Coach-of-the-Year, George E. Williams Outstanding Individual Contributor Award and the Phil Joyner Outstanding Corporate Contributor Award.
Along with Packard, Brian Fields and Michael Vaughn received the Volunteer Coach-of-the-Year award. The two led Greenville North State to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania last summer. Ryan Mills, from North Pitt High School, received the Individual Contributor Award, while BB&T received the Corporate Contributor Award.
The keynote speaker at the event, hosted by WNCT Sports Director Brian Bailey, was Oakland Athletics pitcher Chris Hatcher. Hatcher played baseball at Kinston High School and at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington before being drafted by the then Florida Marlins in the 2006 Major League Baseball draft. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 before being traded to the Athletics in 2017.
The night brought attention toward the upcoming baseball season. ECU baseball will have intrasquad scrimmages this weekend as it prepares for the season opener, a series against Western Carolina on Feb. 16 at Clark-Leclair Stadium.