A Place For Brooks
Larry Wallace throws out the first pitch at the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic Saturday.
Feb. 27, 2012
by Meredith Hillgartner
A big brother.
Someone who teaches you to tie your shoes, pitch a tent, and maybe even shows you how to throw your first ball.
What do you do when your big brother is a great baseball player?
So great he started all four years in college.
So great he played for the Texas Rangers organization. So great he returned to coach his college team.
What do you do when your big brother is diagnosed with Leukemia?
In this story, the little brother chose to honor his big brother's memory through the game of baseball.
Brooks Wallace was more than just an athlete. He was a father, a son, a husband, a friend and most of all an older brother. A hero and role model to many, but no one experienced his greatness quite like his younger brother Larry did.
Almost 27 years after Brooks' death, Larry Wallace and his family returned to Lubbock to celebrate the life of his big brother.
This weekend Texas Tech held the Third Annual Brooks Wallace Classic-a tournament honoring the memory of an alumni who changed the game of college baseball.
Throwing out the first pitch of the game, Larry reminded a new generation how his brother impacted America's favorite game.
"He loved the game of baseball," Larry said. "He really liked to teach and be around the guys... but he really loved the game. I guess he felt that there was a place for him in the game, while playing it and after."
Brooks played shortstop for Tech from 1977-1980 before playing two years of professional baseball for the Texas Rangers.
Brooks then returned to Lubbock where he was an assistant coach at Texas Tech.
While coaching he was diagnosed with cancer and six months later, on March 24, 1985, he passed away.
Brooks is remembered not just for his skills on the field but for his character.
"He did have a very good sense of humor," Larry said. "He always, as my mom used to say, was the peacemaker of the family and would always try to find good in bad."
In 2004, the College Baseball Foundation created the Brooks Wallace Award-given to the top collegiate athlete in the country.
"Brooks was a good player," Larry said. "But I think the reason they named the award after him is more for the person he was and what he meant to baseball."
The award doesn't go to just any player.
Past recipients include: Kurt Suzuki, David Price and Buster Posey.
In the award's history all eight recipients have gone on to play Major League Baseball.
The only Red Raider to make the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List is former shortstop Kelby Tomlinson.
Larry said the award is given to a recipient whose off the field accomplishments are taken into consideration as much as his talents on the field.
"Not only their accolades on the field but a lot goes on the decision making," Larry, who serves on the board of the College Baseball Foundation, said. "Especially when it comes down to the final three or five...I say it's kind of half and half-being a good baseball player but being a good person as well."
Larry said extensive research is done on each player and interviews are conducted on those closest to him.
"We interview their coaches and parents and things of that nature," Larry said. "We do a little background on the guys, and see what they do outside of baseball. We see if they are involved in charities and things of that nature and kind of get a vibe for the person they are through their coach and obviously their parents."
When it came to Brooks though, his character was never in question for one person.
"He would always take me everywhere," Larry said. "I always felt like I was maybe tagging along or whatever. So, we spent a lot of time together and I asked my mother, after he passed, `Why did you always make him take me everywhere with him?' It seemed like I was with him everywhere he went.
"She never told him to take me anywhere-he always asked to."
That's a big brother.