Meridian Star

Sports

October 1, 2013

Thames, Lucovich to be inducted to ECCC HOF

— From School Reports

    Marcus Thames is the only former East Central Community College baseball player to experience a 15-year career in Major League Baseball.

    Not only did he “experience” a long career, his first at-bat resulted in a home run and he continued the successful journey in a World Series.

    In recognition of his success on the diamond, Thames will be inducted into the ECCC Athletic Hall of Fame during the 2013 Homecoming activities scheduled Saturday, October 12 on the Decatur campus.

    Thames and former Carthage High School head football coach Pete Lucovich will be enshrined at the Alumni Association Awards Luncheon beginning at 11 a.m. in Mabry Memorial Cafeteria.

    Thames, who is continuing his career in professional baseball as a coach in the New York Yankees’ minor league system in Tampa, Fla., said he was “speechless” when informed of his selection for the prestigious award.

    “When Dr. (Billy) Stewart called me I was so shocked I could not speak,” said Thames. “I never thought for a second that when I walked on East Central’s campus in January of 1996 that this honor was in the making. I am very appreciative.”

    The Louisville native began his major league career by belting a home run off Cy Young winner Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium on June 10, 2002.

    Thames hit the dinger off the first pitch he saw from Johnson and became the 80th player in history to accomplish such a feat.

    As his coaches and teammates were laughing in amazement, Thames stepped out of the dugout for a curtain call to a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium!

    (Ironically, his last at-bat at the old Yankee Stadium was a home run and his first hit at new Yankee Stadium during his second stint with the Yankees in 2010 was a homer!)

    Thames spent just one season with the Yankees who traded the outfielder to the Texas Rangers on June 6, 2003.

    He began his career with the Rangers as he did with the Yankees, by belting a home run in his first at-bat!

    The following two seasons Thames split times between the Detroit Tigers and their AAA affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens.

In 2006, Thames made his opening day roster for new Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

    He was regarded as a “key component” to the Tigers’ vast improvement in 2006, which resulted in the American League pennant and a trip to the World Series, won in five games by the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Thames set career highs in every offensive category during the championship season. He batted .256 with 26 home runs and 60 RBIs in only 348 at bats. He was infamously nicknamed “Country Strong” by Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen.

    Pete Lucovich spent 32 years as a successful high school coach and teacher at Carthage High School following a standout football and baseball career at then East Central Junior College from 1971-73.

    Lucovich and former Major League Baseball player and Louisville native Marcus Thames, now of Tampa, Fla., will be enshrined at the Alumni Association Awards Luncheon beginning at 11 a.m. in Mabry Memorial Cafeteria.

    Lucovich, who came to EC following a stellar athletic career at Hickory High School, said he is “deeply honored and thankful” for the prestigious award.

    When he retired in 2010, Lucovich had logged 28 years as athletic director and head football coach at Carthage High School, where his teams compiled an overall record of 162 wins and 125 losses.

    He led 10 Tiger teams to the state playoffs, and three squads (1991, 1992 and 2007) finished Class AAA South State runners-up.

    He also had four squads (1983, 1991, 1992 and 2007) to achieve number-one rankings in the state during season competition.

    Lucovich also achieved success as a junior varsity head football coach, compiling and overall 49-14 mark.

    He also served as golf and tennis coach at CHS.

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