The Hot topic: Moreland, area coaches discuss the upcoming season on the diamond

A home run for the Crawdads.

The 2011 Hot Stove Banquet didn’t disappoint the public and showcased a variety of local and national baseball teams.

Mark Seaman, Crawdads general manager, discussed the 2010 season on and off the field.

Last season, the Crawdads finished 75-64, which was second best in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Hickory also clinched the first-half division.

“This is probably the largest turnout we have had at the Hot Stove,” Seaman said. “We appreciate everyone coming out and kicking off the 19th season of Crawdads baseball.”

The Crawdads philanthropic deeds included 14 Christmas parades and $50,000 in tickets and merchandising given away to charitable organizations.

“That is just a snippet of what our staff is doing this year,” Seaman said.

The night also featured an array of speakers from many schools, the first of which was Hickory High School baseball coach David Craft.

Craft gave those in attendance a small preview of the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference should be like this season.

“Just speaking from some of the coaches in our conference, we feel like fans are going to see some real solid baseball,” said Craft.

Also discussed was the game on March 29 between Wake Forest University and Appalachian State University at L.P. Frans Stadium.

“We are real excited about the game,” said Wake Forest coach Tom Walter. “(L.P. Frans Stadium) is one of the great venues in the country.”

Appalachian State coach Chris Pollard was also eager to come play the Demon Deacons in March.

“We are excited to be (in Hickory) at the end of March,” Pollard said. “It is going to be a good game.”

Catawba Valley Community College baseball was also discussed. The Buccaneers had an incredible first campaign, in which they reached their highest ranking of 14th in the NJCAA poll.

CVCC coach Frank Pait discussed the second baseball season for the school.

“I am very privileged and honored to be here,” Pait said. “I had the honor of building the program from scratch. Hopefully, we are going to have a pretty good year.”

Texas Rangers’ first basemen Mitch Moreland finished the night off with a question-and-answer session from Andrew Buchbinder, Crawdads broadcasting and media relations director.

Moreland, who was brought up to the Rangers’ roster on July 29, talked about the experience of playing in the Major Leagues.

“It has been my dream,” he said. “I just tried to make the most of it. It was a blast. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Among Moreland’s many accolades from last season was a World Series appearance.

“You never dream of that,” he said. “I just wanted to get to the big leagues. Hopefully, we can do it again this year.”

In the World Series, Moreland hit a three-run home run in Game 3. That lifted the Rangers to a 4-2 victory, which was their lone win in the series.

“I knew I hit it good,” he said. “I had a nine pitch at-bat. After I hit it, I don’t remember what happened. I just had a real big smile on my face.”

Moreland had a special message for those who dream of making it to the professionals.

“Never quit,” Moreland said. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. If you go out and work hard, you will get your opportunities.”