John Adams: Chase Headley, other former Vols, hit it big in 2012

John Adams
San Diego Padres' Chase Headley watches his long double to centerfield that drove in his 109th run of the year during seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 in San Diego. Headley started the day tied with Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun with 108 RBIs. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Diego Padres' Chase Headley watches his long double to centerfield that drove in his 109th run of the year during seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 in San Diego. Headley started the day tied with Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun with 108 RBIs. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Take note: Former Tennessee player Chase Headley will offer hitting tips at the Rangers Baseball Institute in Knoxville on Saturday.

Such news wouldn't normally get my attention. After all, it's way too late to help with my hitting. And even when my batting average was relevant, I don't remember it benefitting from a Saturday morning session with former major league batting champion Pete Runnels.

But a hitting Headley catches my eye for a couple of reasons. He suddenly has emerged as one of the best players in baseball. He's also part of a phenomenal six-month run by ex-Vols.

Former UT players always have a presence in professional sports. Tight end Jason Witten, running back Arian Foster and safety Eric Berry are among the ex-Vols that had or are still having outstanding NFL seasons. Tamika Catchings already has been honored as one of the 15 best players in the history of the WNBA and led the Indiana Fever to a championship this past October.

You had a number of former UT athletes who excelled in the 2012 Summer Olympics. To mention a couple: Justin Gatlin won a bronze with a 9.79 clocking in the fastest 100-meters race in Olympic history; Aries Merritt won the gold in the 110-meter hurdles and set a world record in the event a few weeks later.

But it's not just the success of ex-Vols that has been newsworthy during the past few months. It's the unexpected success achieved by Headley, pitcher R.A. Dickey and Peyton Manning.

Never mind that Manning is already a cinch to make the NFL Hall of Fame. How could you anticipate he would play at the same level after missing the 2011 season and undergoing neck surgery?

Yet he had another Pro Bowl season and had the Denver Broncos in the running for the Super Bowl until Saturday's double-overtime loss to Baltimore.

Dickey's season was both outstanding and stunning. In nine previous major league seasons, he had never won more than 11 games, although he did pitch effectively for the New York Mets the previous two years.

He was Cy Young effective in 2012. Dickey, who was recently traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, went 20-6, posted a 2.73 earned-run average, and struck out 230 batters in 233.2 innings to win the National League Cy Young Award.

Headley's improvement was just as dramatic.

In his other three full major league seasons, he never hit more than 12 home runs or drove in more than 64 runs. Then, in 2012, he batted .286, hit 31 home runs and led the National League with 115 RBIs.

After a season like that, he's qualified to charge for hitting tips.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 4

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

Bring back Doug Dickey!

born2ride writes:

Good article but I thought JA would be slamming the Vols for losing to Bama in basketball.

lstbodeanvol writes:

wow a positive story .....cool go vols

jmaples54 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Good article but I thought JA would be slamming the Vols for losing to Bama in basketball.

that's because your prejudice leaves a never ending bitter taste to your life.

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