Hall of Fame: Meyer a catalyst for USC success

Baseball program has been streaking since his arrival

nwhite@thestate.comSeptember 11, 2013 

  • HALL OF FAME

    What: USC Athletic Hall of Fame

    When: Thursday; Dinner, inductions begin at 6:30 p.m.

    Where: The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium

    Inductees: Arlo Elkins, Drew Meyer, Megan Matthews, Charmaine Howell, Max Runager, Dave DeCamilla, Chris Boyle and Jake Bodkin

Drew Meyer arrived on the University of South Carolina campus in the fall before the 2000 college baseball season.

A highly touted prospect from Charleston, he turned down an offer out of high school from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who drafted him in the second round, to come to Columbia. Three spectacular seasons followed in which Meyer delivered on his considerable promise.

On Thursday night, he enters the USC Hall of Fame as one of eight inductees at The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium.

USC athletics director Ray Tanner, then the school’s baseball coach, knew from watching Meyer many times that the young standout had the ability to make an impact on the program.

“Coaches always laugh about recruiting. You’re wrong about half the time, but I always felt we’d be right with Drew,” Tanner said. “I always felt this guy is going to be a difference-maker in the program. He was such a great talent. We were really good with him playing shortstop for us.”

The Gamecocks produced a 162-48 record over his career (2000-02). Meyer still holds several single-season records and remains third on the program’s all-time lists for hits (285) and runs scored (212).

He finished his career with a .330 average, 24 homers, 126 RBIs, 72 stolen bases, and a glittering defensive reputation, all of which helped the Gamecocks reach a pair of NCAA Super Regionals and the College World Series national championship game.

His All-America junior year — when he batted .359 with six homers, 40 RBIs, and 39 stolen bases — led to his selection by the Texas Rangers with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2002 MLB draft — the highest-ever choice of a USC player — when he signed for $1.875 million. After a nine-season pro career, which included a brief stint in the major leagues with the Rangers in 2006, he returned to Columbia in 2010 as a student assistant coach with the Gamecocks while finishing his undergraduate degree in business management.

Having recently moved to Greenville, where he has entered the business world working for Federated Insurance, he was surprised by the phone call that told him of his Hall selection.

“I was surprised and excited. It’s pretty cool,” Meyer said. “It means a lot. As an athlete, you don’t go to college to make it to the Hall of Fame. You go to have fun, to win games and go to Omaha to try to win a national championship, and to build friendships. It’s such a long shot down the road to even be thinking about making the Hall of Fame, although, obviously, every athlete wishes they could have a career that gets them there.”

Meyer, 32, who had a son in the spring with his wife Christy, looks back on his USC days with great fondness. His freshman season set in motion USC’s most recent run of success, as it began a string of 14 consecutive NCAA postseason appearances that’s ongoing. That 2000 season began with 22 consecutive wins and included another 21-game winning streak before it ended with a tough loss one win shy of Omaha.

“In my eyes, that season changed what South Carolina baseball was all about,” Meyer said. “Really, it hasn’t slowed down since then.”

The 2001 season also ended in the Super Regionals before the Gamecocks finally broke through for the first time in 17 seasons with a trip to the College World Series. It was made possible by a miracle five-run, ninth-inning rally in a 6-4 win against Miami in the deciding game of the 2002 Super Regional at Sarge Frye Field.

“The magic dust fell from the sky, and the next thing you know, we’re celebrating,” Meyer said.

A run through the losers’ bracket in Omaha, which included two huge wins against rival Clemson, didn’t end until a championship game loss to Texas. He still wishes the Gamecocks had another day of rest before the title game, but he has no regrets about the way his career ended.

Tanner has special bond with Meyer because of what the shortstop did for the program. The former coach is thrilled with the honor Meyer is receiving.

“I certainly think that he’s deserving, and I’m really, really proud of him,” Tanner said.

USC HALL OF FAME CLASS

The class of 2013 includes:

ARLO ELKINS

The late coach guided Carolina’s women’s tennis team to 17 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and 19 overall. His teams won 438 matches.

DREW MEYER

All-America baseball shortstop, a first-round draft choice by the Texas Rangers, who still holds the SEC record for most base hits in a season with 120 in 2002.

MEGAN MATTHEWS

All-America softball pitcher won 101 games for Carolina, and led the nation in saves as a true freshman. She was the Gamecocks’ all-time leader in strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched.

CHARMAINE HOWELL

Four-time women’s track All-American who excelled in the 800 meters at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. She won a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in the 4x100 relay.

MAX RUNAGER

Outstanding punter in the late 1970s. He was voted to USC’s all-time team in 1992. Runager punted in the NFL from 1979-1989 for the Eagles, 49ers and Browns.

DAVE DECAMILLA

Anchored the offensive line for coach Paul Dietzel’s Gamecocks from 1968-1970. DeCamilla was named first-team All-ACC in 1969 and 1970. USC won the ACC title in 1969.

CHRIS BOYLE

Baseball catcher for coach June Raines from 1981-84 who helped lead the Gamecocks to two College World Series appearances. He drove in 198 runs, second to Justin Smoak’s 207.

JAKE BODKIN

The late football player was voted first-team All-ACC on coach Warren Giese’s offensive line in 1960. Won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 1960 and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

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