WATCH: This One's for Gary
WALL, TX -- Wall’s first-ever state baseball championship was special for everyone involved. After all, it was the first boy’s team title in school history.
“It’s one of those things like I said the other day, you don’t know what it’s gonna be like as soon as it happens,” head coach Jason Schniers said. “We were so excited when we got that final out, the last strike of the game. With it being a 2-1 game, the game being so close, it makes it that much more exciting when we won it, when it was over.”
However, it meant more to longtime Wall resident Gary Speck.
Speck has been following Wall athletics since they moved to Wall in 2001. Seeing Ryan Gully seal the win with a strikeout was a storybook ending in Speck’s eyes.
“It was fantastic,” Speck said. “I don’t know all of the kids, but I know most of their parents. Just seeing the enthusiasm on the players’ faces, in fact, seeing the enthusiasm on the faces of all the Wall people was worth every bit of it, every minute.”
Speck said he wouldn’t have missed the trip to Round Rock for the world.
“Anytime Wall’s in the playoffs -- well, anytime Wall plays, you need to be there to back those kids because that’s your future,” Speck said. “I love athletics. So anything I can do to help, I’ll be there.”
WATCH: This One's For Gary
He’s also not guaranteed another chance to see Wall reach the pinnacle. Gary was diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of September.
Gary had been having vision trouble and a fender bender prompted him to get a checkup. His eye doctor thought the cause of the trouble was from a stroke and recommended an MRI. The scan revealed the tumors in Gary’s brain. Wall’s biggest fan said, “this is a very strong cancer.”
Between rounds of chemotherapy in Austin in the fall, Gary would try to make it home for Hawk football games, but he ended up missing a few.
Prior to this past school year, Speck said he had only missed nine football games in his time in Wall.
“I do my best not to miss a game even though I’ve been sick,” he said.
That hasn’t slowed him or his passion for the Hawks down.
“My feeling is, it is what it is. You do the best you can with what you have,” Gary said.
Gary has been in pain, but Wall’s historic 39-1 run to the Class 3A title has provided some relief for him. He couldn’t wait for Friday’s semifinal to get here.
“It takes your mind off things, getting ready for something like this,” Gary said. “Of course I can’t wait for Friday for football. Tuesdays and Fridays are basketball. I have a niece that plays volleyball. So, that adds something special to it. Most of the teams that play, you know a lot of the kids or their parents.”
In the early years of Schniers’ tenure at Wall, he got to know the Speck family because their son played football and baseball. The moment was just as sweet for Schniers.
“It was big,” the head coach said. “Gary and his wife (Darlene) have been big time supporters and Wall Hawk fans since I’ve been there. … To see him out there at our games in the heat really shows the dedication and the support he gives to the Wall Hawks and these players. To be able to win a game and him able to see the Wall Hawks win a state championship, I know it brought true joy to his family.”
Following their 2-1 win over Blanco in the championship game, the Hawks wanted to show Speck what he meant to the program. After the title game, Gary received a game ball signed by each and every player. Their show of love and unity with their biggest fan didn’t stop there.
During their bus ride from Round Rock, with the championship trophy in tow, the Hawks' bus stopped at Speck’s house and each player got off the bus to thank their biggest fan.
“It was just the whole team’s idea,” senior right fielder Gage Weishuhn said. “We knew how much he put out for our community and how much time he spent to come watch us. He deserved something, so we gave him that baseball at the state game. We needed to tell him one more thank you and tell him that we’re here for him no matter what and we’ll fight for him while he’s going through what he’s going through right now. We just thought it’d be a good idea to go out there and say thank you and everything.”
The love for Speck goes beyond the gridiron and baseball diamond. Gary needed help to plant his wheat in 2018 and the agricultural community of Wall stepped up to the plate.
“They planted my wheat for me. We’ve had so many people come by,” Gary said. “Not everyone (in Wall) is kin. A large majority of these people are distant cousins and stuff. If you’re not part of that family, they bring you in. They have big ole’ arms they wrap around you and bring you in.”
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