There are guys that excel on the field but need to make improvements elsewhere, and then there are guys that excel outside of sports in matters of academics and life.
However, Matoaca left fielder Derek Drake may be the prototype for overall success.
The 6’5”, 190-pound senior roams the outfield for the Warriors, and provides leadership through a balanced, level-headed approach to the field, in addition to a solid, hustling style of play.
“He’s always steady,” said Matoaca head baseball coach Fred Stoots. “You always know what you’re going to get. He plays the game the right way.”
But off the field, Drake is incredible in the classroom. He carries a 4.8 GPA and recently received an academic scholarship to Messiah University (Harrisburg, PA) and he will also play baseball there.
Messiah is a Christian college with strong academics and several budding sports programs, including a baseball team that won a conference championship this season.
“I play hard but I also work hard,” said Drake. “I treat the classroom just like a baseball game, I do everything that I possibly can to do as well as I can. I study extra, practice extra.”
Drake decided on Messiah over Shenandoah for its spiritual side, as he’s very active at Southside Church of the Nazarene in Chesterfield, and his aspirations to be a physical therapist can be fulfilled there, as Messiah has a program that has a very high acceptance rate into graduate school in physical therapy. Randolph-Macon and Lynchburg College also showed interest in the left fielder.
“I do everything for the glory of God,” said Drake. “I’ve had great influences from my parents (Jackie and Sheldon Drake) and my youth pastor. That type of work ethic Drake possesses has rubbed off on classmates and teammates alike. Coachable Drake is a valuable asset, according to Stoots. He is described as a player that does nothing spectacularly, but does everything great. Drake is hitting .440 on the season and is one of the players that have really started to turn it on for the Warriors as they hit the home stretch heading to the post-season.
“Some kids you might have to worry about what you’re going to get,” said Stoots. “Derek is consistent, and is the first guy to offer help or pick up someone that’s down.”
The Warriors are coming on at the right time after a hiccup in the schedule over spring break in which Matoaca lost three games that week, to Dinwiddie, Manchester and Atlee. However, they have rebounded since, and last week scored two wins, both coming in extra innings over Prince George and Colonial Heights respectively. They improved their record to 9-4 overall and 7-1 in the district as of press time.
“I like to stay loose before games; we joke around and pick on each other and have fun,” said Drake. “It helps us to view each game like just another game.”
Drake’s work ethic and attitude have led to several opportunities, including several through his church and youth pastor Jerry Varner.
The senior has been on several mission trips to Kilmarnock, VA, and also traveled to Costa Rica. While in Costa Rica, Drake and members of his church constructed a soccer field for youth.
“It was really a humbling experience,” said Drake. “I learned so much there that I wouldn’t have learned sitting on my couch,” he continued.
“Those kids were so grateful for grass to play on; I appreciated the opportunity and took a lot back from it.”
While Drake has had a fantastic year, and there’s still much baseball left to play, Stoots admits that he’ll be sad to see Drake go.
“Derek has been an absolute pleasure to coach,” said Stoots. “If I had a son, he’d be a good one to have,” he continued. “Words can’t describe the kind of guy Derek is.”
The Warriors will march on, hoping to better last year’s performance and take home their first district and regional championship since 2006. Last year, Matoaca was the region’s runner up, dropping a heartbreaker to Cosby before falling in the first round of states.
Up next for Matoaca will be a road contest at Meadowbrook at 6 p.m. on Thursday, before facing off with Dinwiddie at home next Tuesday at 6 p.m. in preparation for the district tournament. Finishing out the season on a winning streak will force a one game playoff for the district title, and the winner will gain all-important home field advantage for the first round of the regionals. Stay tuned to the Village News for more coverage for your Warriors and other spring sports action, check out www.villagenewsonline.com.