The folks at celebrated their own version of National Signing Day Wednesday morning at the high school, with a ceremony honoring Wildcat student-athletes Ryan Haxel (golf), Ellie Huffman (softball), and Tate Matheny (baseball), who all recently signed national letters of intent to play sports at three local NCAA Division I colleges beginning next fall.
Haxel, one of the top golf talents in the area, signed to play at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, after leading the Wildcats to a second place finish in the Missouri Class 3 boys state championship tournament last spring.
Huffman, a top hitter for the Wildcats softball team, hit .441 this fall with two home runs and 45 RBIs, and helped lead Westminster to the state tournament Final Four this year, signed on to play at Saint Louis University next fall.
And Matheny, son of new St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, signed to play baseball at Missouri State University in Springfield beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
“It’s really an exciting day for all of us,” Tate Matheny said. “I really enjoyed (being recruited), and I feel like I really made the right choice for me.”
Matheny's signing comes just days after his father was named as the St. Louis Cardinals manager.
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Matheny’s signing is a bit of a coup for Missouri State coach Keith Guttin, who was able to lure one of the St. Louis area’s top school baseball talents away from top programs such as University of Missouri, Texas Christian University, Florida State University, University of Michigan, University of Houston and others.
“When I went on the visit, I just fell in love with the place,” Tate Matheny said. “The campus is beautiful, and I really liked (Coach Guttin). He’s a really good guy. I can’t wait to get down there and get started.”
Matheny, a supremely talented centerfielder, who hit .504, with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs last year, helped lead the Wildcats to their first state baseball title in school history back in June and will join three other top St. Louis-area ballplayers (Hazelwood Central stars Matt Dezort and Jonathan Harris and Eureka’s Matt Hasenback) at Missouri State next fall.
Guttin called the Missouri State 2012 signing class one of his best ever.
“We feel that we've addressed some needs for the coming years with this group,” Guttin said, in a statement released by the Missouri State sports information department. “With seven seniors on our roster, as well as several juniors who could get looks in the draft next June, this was an important class. It’s a deep, evenly distributed group, with a number of solid arms and some quality position players as well.”
Tate Matheny’s signing caps a whirlwind week for the Matheny family, which also saw the recent announcement of younger sister Katie, a Westminster junior, who intends to play hockey at Ohio State University beginning in 2013, as well as the Monday blockbuster announcement that dad Mike had been hired as new manager of the World Series champion Cardinals.
“It’s been an unbelievable week for our family,” Tate Matheny said. “I don’t think it’s really hit us yet. We’ve just been trying to go with it and enjoy it. I’m as excited for Katie and my dad as I am for myself.”
Proud father Mike Matheny agreed it’s been a great week for his family.
“It’s awesome,” Mike Matheny said at the signing Wednesday. “It’s kind of hard to process all that’s going on, especially with the kids. They’re all getting started on their own adventure. Life is filled with highs and lows, and this is certainly a high for them. And I just can’t tell them enough how proud I am of all of them.”
And while Huffman’s high school career is over with fall softball done for the year, Haxel and Tate Matheny will be back in uniform this spring, hoping to bring home even more hardware for the Wildcat trophy case.
“We believe we can do it again,” Matheny said. “We’ve got some awesome talent coming back, and we can’t wait for spring to get here, so we can get the season started.”