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Hunter High gets ready to swing at a pitch Feb. 21 against the ETSU Buccaneers.
Photo by University of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball player with ‘a servant’s heart’ celebrates national championship

Hunter High prays for God’s will before every game.

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Players leaned on the edge of the dugout. 

A true test of patience — waiting for the moment to celebrate. The pitcher hurled the ball to the plate, followed by a swing and a miss.

Black hats with orange logos flew under the lights of Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb. Tennessee Volunteers fans sang the words of “Rocky Top” by the Osborne Brothers.

Related: 10 favorite baseball stories featuring members of Churches of Christ

Players shared hugs and smiles on the infield clay. The occasion marked a first national championship for the University of Tennessee baseball team — and for freshman Hunter High, a member of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville. 

“It was just surreal,” High told The Christian Chronicle. “We have done what we said we are going to do, and it’s an awesome dream come true.”

High said he always prays the same thing before games, telling God, “You are good. Whatever happens in this game, let it be your will. Without you, I am nothing.”

This season, the infielder from Crieve Hall, south of Nashville,  registered a .385 batting average in 11 games with the Volunteers. 

But the journey to the College World Series title began long before High’s time in college.

Related: Why Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris was baptized in his baseball uniform

Hunter’s parents, Brent and Emily High, knew he possessed talent from a young age. 

“All talent is given from God,” Emily said. “Whatever it is that you do, try your best to use that talent to bring God glory.”

Emily, a former basketball player for Lipscomb University in Nashville, said struggles in athletics provided lifelong insight for her family.

“Sports and faith go hand in hand because it teaches you how to do hard things,” Emily said.

Hunter attended Lipscomb Academy, a K-12 Christian school operated by the university.

He succeeded on the diamond and gridiron, winning two state football championships with the Mustangs. 

Hunter is on Joey Roberts’ “Mount Rushmore” of favorite players. 

High embraces Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello.

Hunter High, right, embraces Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello.

“We put him out there as a 140-pound linebacker, and he never flinched,” said Roberts, a former Lipscomb Academy football chief of staff. “He never backed down from any play, and he led from the sideline.” 

Hunter “spearheaded the brotherhood” that existed within the locker room, said Roberts, now a football administrator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

But his leadership translated on and off the field. He would lead Bible studies and speak in the players’ chapel. 

“He had a servant’s heart,” Roberts said. “He was a leader, but his version of leadership was serving.”

His servanthood and talent earned him the chance to play baseball for Tennessee. 

As the Volunteers began fall practices, Hunter said, he knew the team was fit for a national championship run. 

“The amount of talent was there, but also the amount of competitiveness too,” he said. “Everyone was treating each other well, and there was a sense of camaraderie.” 

Members of the team not only grew together as teammates but as brothers of Christ, Hunter told the Chronicle. 

Some Vols players, including Hunter, participate in a discipleship group led by Luke Hochevar, a former major league pitcher. 

“We all have the mindset that we are going to pursue God, regardless of our performance,” Hunter said. “That’s probably what helps the most when getting through that little tough patch.”

Hunter poses with his mom, Emily High, following the national championship victory.

Hunter High poses with his mom, Emily, after the national championship victory.

Even after winning the national championship, Hunter pushes to improve on the diamond. 

He’s playing with the Bristol State Liners, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Appalachian League. (Bristol is a twin city on the Tennessee-Virginia state line.)

Whether competing in Bristol or Knoxville, High said he appreciates the teammates, coaches and family who surround him. 

“I have been really blessed with coaches and teammates that have helped me in all situations,” he said. “I’m loved just like how God loves us.”

Following the 6-5 title win over Texas A&M, scenes of jubilation filled the Tennessee crowd. 

As the celebrations took place on the field, Hunter High reminisced on the team’s motto: Next task.

After 73 hard-fought battles, the ultimate accomplishment was complete. 

“It’s kinda funny because there was no next task,” Hunter said. 

No next task for this season, but he’ll be praying again next season — before every game — for God’s will to be done.

NIC FRARACCIO, a senior journalism major at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., is The Christian Chronicle’s summer intern. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: baseball Christian Churches of Christ college sports National News People sports Top Stories

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