JACKSON, Tenn. - 3/27/2006 -
By: David Roach
Cardinal & Cream
From the time his daughter could pick up a bat, she was his little superstar. Now Tony Kirk, a 1984 Union graduate, can watch his superstar play not only at the collegiate level, but also under the same coach he had during his college career.
Kirk, who is now the office manager at Bolivar Electric Department in Bolivar, Tenn., played two years with the Bulldogs under the command of co-head coaches David Blackstock and Linn Stranek. In ’83, he was on the first Union baseball team to make it to the NAIA World Series—something no other team has been able to do since.
“ was an unbelievable season,” Kirk said. “We were such a close team.”
Kirk hit .349 that year including 11 homeruns and 55 runs-batted-in. In the World Series Kirk hit a team high of three homeruns en route to a third place finish in the series.
“Every once in a while I guess I carried my weight,” a modest Kirk said. “Our team was special in that someone different picked us up every game.”
Not only was the team’s will and determination tough, but the relationships surrounding the team were solid. Kirk said much credit could be attributed to Blackstock’s leadership.
“We respected him. Sure, he was a cut-up with us sometimes, but we knew he was in charge and that we didn’t want to let him or our teammates down.”
“In coaching, Dr. Stranek and I believe deeply that coaches were in charge,” Blackstock said. “But our philosophy was that we enjoyed the relationship between players and coaches.”
Now the same coach who took the team to Disney World while playing in Boca Raton, Fla. and played hearts in a hotel with his players the night before a World Series game is coaching a second generation Kirk.
Freshman Kristen Kirk, mathematics major, was actually recruited and signed on by former head coach Brian Dunn prior to Dunn’s resignation.
Before coming to Union, young Kirk had considerable experience at shortstop, outfield and pitcher positions. Whatever role she plays on the team, she is excited about playing for Blackstock.
“Our whole family was excited when we heard coach Blackstock was going to coach softball at Union,” Kirk said. “I had heard nothing but good things about him from my dad, so I was never worried about playing under him.”
Her dad isn’t worried either.
“It’s relaxing knowing she is at Union, where she is happy with college life on and off the field,” Kirk said. “Watching her play, I don’t think I have ever seen her having as much fun playing softball as I have seen this season.”
Part of the fun is that Kristen hit her first homerun earlier this season against Culver-Stockton. What made it even more special was that her dad was in the stands to cheer for her.
“I could hear my dad above everyone else for sure,” Kirk said. “It means a lot to have him at my games, even though there are games when I can’t even look at him because I know I am playing bad.”
If the past is any indication, Kirk will not have many of those “bad” moments. It took a lot of work to get to where she is now, and she is taking nothing for granted.
“Not many people are going to be able to say first of all, ‘I played college softball’ and secondly, ‘I played under the same coach that coached my dad,’” she said.
Watching his daughter play softball for Union, Kirk still remembers the friend Blackstock became while he was there.
“The two years I spent at Union were the best two years of baseball I played. A lot of that had to do with coach Blackstock. When I walk up to him, I still call him coach Blackstock… he will always be my ball coach.”
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