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Jefferson baseball retires Reynolds' No. 14

April 01, 2007|By JOHN O'BRIEN

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Of all the historically great baseball players to pass through Jefferson High School, a program with eight state championships since 1979, Jeff Reynolds can make a claim as being the first.

Saturday, the school took measures to see that he's the longest-lasting, too.

Reynolds, the first Jefferson player to sign a professional contract, was honored before the Cougars' 10-0 win over Hedgesville at Sager Field. Signs with his retired No. 14 will be hung on the press box and batting cage.

"It's truly an honor," said Reynolds, who played 10 years in the minor leagues. "When I'm dead and gone, people can see my number here and say, 'Who was that Reynolds guy?'"

And the answer will be that that Reynolds guy was a three-year starter at Jefferson who graduated in 1978 and still holds the school's career record for home runs with 18, along with three other players.

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While playing with future Major Leaguer John Kruk at Potomac State College in Keyser, W.Va., Reynolds was a first-team All-American as a third baseman and established a still-standing mark at the school with 18 home runs in 1980.

A year earlier, his nine triples set the school's single-season record, which he currently shares with Bill Wooten. Ironically, Wooten's inside-the-park home run while playing at Logan High School in southern West Virginia knocked Jefferson out of the state semifinals in 2002.

Reynolds, too, was denied a state championship at Jefferson, but his teams went 71-16-1 in his three years.

Lowery said he most remembers "how much (Reynolds) loved to play the game, the enthusiasm he had.

"He had the gifts, and it was nice to see him have the opportunity to take advantage of those."

Reynolds credited Lowery with increasing his interest in college, and Lowery even drove him to Potomac State after coaching him in the Valley League with the Winchester Royals.

From there, Reynolds was chosen by the New York Yankees in the 1980 January draft, declined an offer to play at Division-I Georgia Southern and, in 1981, was named MVP of the Single-A South Atlantic League after banging 26 home runs with 103 RBI.

That distinction earned him an invitation to Yankees spring training in 1982, which Reynolds considers the fondest memory of his career.

"There I met Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Catfish Hunter, Dave Winfield. For a 21-year-old kid from West Virginia ...," Reynolds said.

But that year he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays organization. During the rest of his career, he'd belong to the Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds. Overall, Reynolds played in four minor-league all-star games, though he never made it to the big leagues.

"He was just caught up in a couple of organizations - timing is so much a part of a minor-league career," Lowery said. "He was in a couple organizations where he was behind Graig Nettles and Tim Wallach."

In 2002, he was elected to Potomac State's Hall of Fame, where his picture hangs next to Lowery's.

He now lives in Charles Town and has four children and one grandchild. He says he has been a part of four national championship slow-pitch softball teams.

His No. 14 remains Jefferson's only retired number. The first Jefferson product to play on a Major League team will be the next to have his number honored.

Lowery said Reynolds' coach at Potomac State, Jack Reynolds, called Kruk the most successful player he ever coached, but called Jeff Reynolds the best player he ever had.

"He had that type of ability," Lowery said.

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