JEROMESVILLE — For years, Wayne Hawks backed the athletic teams at Hillsdale High School at their events.
On Friday night on the former Falcons dirt softball diamond, it was the Hillsdale softball players who wanted to give back to Hawks.
The first Wayne Hawks Memorial Alumni Game was an effort to raise funds for a scholarship in his name.
Hillsdale’s 2022 state semifinalist softball team took on an alumni team to honor one of their very best fans. Hawks passed away on Sept. 9, 2021.
“I know he made a big impact on me in my softball career, and I talked about it with my mom, who is an alum, and we tried to figure it out, and he’s probably been with the program from the first day taking pictures ,” said Hillsdale varsity softball coach Hannah Moore. “We just wanted to honor him because we knew this was going to be the first season ever without Wayne Hawks. We thought what better way than getting all of the alumni back together again because so many of us loved him. Hopefully, we’re going to try and make this an annual thing.”
For years, Hawks snapped photos of the athletes at their various contests, and this season, many of the Hillsdale softball players, family members, and friends wore T-shirts with “For Each Other” written on the back, a motto the team embraced .
Also on the shirts was a picture of a camera and the words “For Wayne” as a tribute to Hawks.
“We had a hashtag ‘For Wayne’ with his camera, little pictures,” Moore said. “We put them on every shirt, and it might be something we put on every shirt from here out. We just wanted to make sure we remembered him and let his family know he made a huge impact on us and let them know he was an important part of Hillsdale softball. ”
As part of the fundraising activities, there was a food truck, a silent auction basket raffles, a third-inning stretch with a pie and cake auction, a 50/50 raffle and a raffle where the winner will receive half a hog from Heffelfinger’s Meat Market.
“We still have to work out the details, but our goal is to make it a scholarship for a Hillsdale softball player who would have been impacted by Wayne,” Moore said. “I think the girls are super excited to play the alums, and some of the girls that are here, they probably looked up to when they were in high school. Some are siblings. Some are friends they played with for years, and now they’re going to play again.
“It’s just kind of a fun thing, and for me it’s kind of cool to see my alums I got to coach as well as some of the girls I got to play with, too.”
Hillsdale senior center fielder Lacey Fickes, who is headed to Heidelberg University this fall, was a four-year varsity player who knew Hawks well.
“I played with his granddaughter Jadyne (Hawks) for a while in volleyball, and she was a great athlete, and he always came and supported us and supported me, and he was just a great guy,” Fickes said. “He took pictures of all of us, and he did not have to do that for all of us. I think that was very kind of him to do that, and I’m grateful he did that
“And I just think the scholarship is great, and I honestly feel anyone who gets it should really take it as an honor because he was such a great person.”
Former Hillsdale standout Sydney Long, who pitched the Falcons to a state championship in 2018 and this spring closed out her career at Ohio Dominican University as the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, also remembers Hawks well.
“I knew of him before, but when I got to high school, he was at all of our games taking pictures and supporting us all the time constantly, being one of our biggest fans all throughout my four years,” Long said. “He was definitely a big community person, always supporting everyone.”
Long started in the circle for the alumni team and threw three shutout innings, as did Hillsdale junior Taylor Morgan, who helped lead Hillsdale into the state semifinals this season.
The marquee matchup is believed to be the first time two Hillsdale pitchers from state tournament teams went head-to-head in a benefit game.
“When I got home from college and they were still in the tournament, I pitched to them for a couple of days of practice,” Long said. “I went out just to get them prepared for the next level and the higher level of competition they were going to face. They know me. They’ve seen me, but it’s awesome to be able to compete against one another.”
“Sydney pitched against us a couple times in practice, but it’s obviously in practice and no one has really seen it, but I’m really excited about that,” Morgan added. “And it makes me super happy to participate in this game because I’m sure Wayne’s watching us right now, knowing we’re doing something great for him.”
Nearly 30 Hillsdale alumni players took part in the game, which they eventually won 7-1. Jenn Moore, who starred at Ashland University, broke the game open in the seventh inning by belting a two-run double.
Hawks snapped many pictures for the softball players and other Hillsdale athletes for years to give them memories they will cherish.
Establishing a scholarship in his name is a way to not only honor him for his kindness and support but also to keep him in the Hillsdale players’ hearts forever.