Hall of Famer Dawson makes huge impression with HVA, youngsters

LENOIR CITY — Celebrating Hardin Valley Academy baseball program’s third straight year of drawing former Major League Baseball stars, 2023 brought the first Cooperstown Hall of Famer.

Andre Dawson, whose 21-year career (1976-96) was mostly spent as a perennial All-Star outfielder with the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs, was center stage during “An Evening with Andre Dawson,” Thursday, Feb. 9, in The Venue in Lenoir City.

“The Andre Dawson event gave me a new perspective from a Hall Of Famer’s point of view,” said Hawks senior Adam Baker, as this 1977 National League Rookie of the Year, 1987 NL MVP and 2010 Hall of Fame inductee addressed the 2023 HVA baseball team soon after arriving.

“I was able to understand that through dedication and persistence, Andre was able to make himself a successful MLB player to be remembered for years to come.

“Andre sharing with us how he came up from being a (college) walk-on (Florida A&M) to being remembered in the Hall of Fame gives me great encouragement to keep playing the game of baseball,” Baker added. “Andre not only was an amazing baseball player, but an even better mentor to young ball players.”

“It’s a scenario where they’re excited and looking forward to the start of the season,” said Dawson, smacking 438 career home runs with a .279 batting average while one of only eight players in MLB history to hit at least 300 home runs and steal at least 300 bases.

“And it’s a thrill for me to be able to address them,” he added. “And just try and help them gain some confidence going forward — and hopefully get off to a fantastic start and have a great season.”

Following his speech to the HVA players, Dawson held an autograph session with about 40 locals — but also including one father-son duo from Murfreesboro.

After dinner, Dawson spoke to the entire gathering in the ballroom before answering a handful of questions.

“This event was a great success,” said Tyler Roach, HVA varsity baseball head coach. “This was the first time we have had a Hall of Famer speak at our event. Andre was amazing.

“He spoke about walking on in college and eventually made it to the Hall of Fame,” the coach added. “It is an incredible story and one I am glad our players got to listen to.”

With the program successfully drawing former MLB greats to the area the past three years, “This event has always been successful and continues to grow each year,” Roach said.

(See much more about Dawson, and reaction to his speeches from other HVA players, in the April edition of Hardin Valley Living)