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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Baseball

Cougars like family to Wallace


Chris Wallace has been a steady force behind the plate for the Cougars in his four years with the team. | Tony Nguyen/The Daily Cougar

Senior catcher Chris Wallace grew up with scarlet red and albino white — his mother Rhonda Sandel is a UH alumna. So when it came time for him to decide where he would go to college and play baseball, the choice was simple.

“This is the hometown school,” Wallace said. “This is where I wanted to go ever since I was growing up.”

In his time at UH, Wallace has established himself as a leader both behind the plate and with the bat.

He was named to the 2008 NCAA College Station Regional All-Tournament Team and the Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team in 2009. On April 6, 2009, he was named C-USA Hitter of the Week and was also named to the 2009 All-Conference USA Second Team. Finally, Wallace got the opportunity to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League Champion last summer with that league’s champions, the Bourne Braves.

Four other UH players also played in Cape Cod: Michael Goodnight, Jared Ray, Chase Dempsay and Blake Kelso.

“Playing in Cape Cod was fun, and playing against my teammates was real fun,” Wallace said. “Being out there and playing with some of the best players out there is a good experience.”

Wallace is hitting .255 with four homers and 13 RBIs this season.

For his final season as a Cougar, Wallace said all he wants to do is win a championship and build on his success.

“I think that should be everyone’s goal on this team,” Wallace said. “Just do the best that (they) can to help the team get (to the championship).”

Despite the team’s 16-18 record, he has high hopes that the Cougars can turn things around and improve on last season’s shortcomings.

“Everyone is still mad about last year … the embarrassment,” Wallace said. “But I think this year is going to be, all around, much better. With the returnees we have, we should be real good. Our pitching staff is really good, although we said that last year and ran into some problems.”

He praised head coach Rayner Noble for the way he handled the Cougars’ disappointing 27-31 finish last season and said he appreciates Nobel for his knowledge of the game and for the support he gives to his players.

“It has to be tough as a coach to sit out there and watch the bunch of the crap we did out on the field. I think that says a lot about (him) for how he handled it,” Wallace said. “He is a real knowledgeable coach. He probably knows more about the game than anyone I’ve ever met, and that is a big thing. You can go and talk to him about baseball or life and he is always there for you, whenever you need it.”

Of his time behind the plate, Wallace said he enjoys catching all the pitchers on the team, but without hesitation he said his favorite is Ray.

“For the most part, when he is at his best, like he was at the end of last season, he hits his spots. He is pretty easy to catch. He throws hard, and it is fun to catch guys that throw hard — they get people out,” Wallace said.

When asked which player he most respects, Wallace named one of the all-time great major league catchers, Ivan Rodriguez, for how he handles pitchers and calls games and for his hitting.

“He is just a good catcher to look up to,” Wallace said. “I think he is the catcher everyone should look up to. He is probably one of the best, if not the best of all time.”

Like many baseball players, Wallace admits he has rituals he has to do before every game.

“I have never been really big on superstitions,” Wallace said. “But I do wear two pairs of sliding shorts because I tore a whole in one of mine, but I like them, so I wanted to keep wearing them. I just put on another pair to cover up the hole during a game where I hit two home runs. I have kept them ever since.”

He also has to drink a Monster Energy drink before every game.

A consumer science and merchandise senior, Wallace said he is ready for whatever life will bring him after he leaves UH. He hopes to get drafted by a major league club. Although he said he doesn’t care who he plays for as long as he gets to keep playing ball, the hometown Astros would be his team if he had a choice.

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