One of the reasons that head basketball coach Mark Potter has had such success with Newman athletes could be that he once was a Newman athlete.
Potter spent the last two years of his college career at Newman playing both basketball and baseball, and many might be surprised to learn which sport he preferred
Potter transferred to Newman from Cowley County Community College in 1983.
At that time, the basketball team was playing its home games at Century II because Newman’s court didn’t meet regulation requirements. Also in 1983, the batting cage was located where the DeMattias stage is now.
“Thinking about the facilities, for the basketball court, we had this old facility on campus that we practiced on but we didn’t have a home facility. It was too small,” Potter said. “We played all of our home games at Century II. Times were so different then.”
Potter said that baseball was his favorite sport. He said he loved to hit.
“It was my favorite thing to do and still is to this day,” Potter said. “People don’t understand that about me. Baseball was actually my favorite sport to play. There’s nothing like getting in the batter’s box, strapping ‘em on, and let’s go.”
Potter’s junior year, the basketball team finished its season on a Saturday night.
“I checked my stuff in for basketball when we got back home, got my baseball stuff before I left, got all my stuff packed up and got in the vans to head off to Arkansas with the baseball team,” he said.
Potter said he was not expecting a starting position on the baseball team that year.
“Somehow, someway, Coach (Paul) Sanagorski gave me the start at first base,” Potter said. “He did not have to do that. I had had one practice in the spring.”
Potter said that he tried his best to prove himself in those nine fall games. He said he remembers that he did okay, but the team was coming off of a World Series year and had a lot of good guys.
“In some ways, I felt bad that he did it. But that being said, I’m a competitor and I want to play and he gave me the chance,” he said.
Potter went four for six in that double header with a home run. He said that from that point on, he was in the starting lineup.
“I knew good and well that the pressure was on, but I loved that in baseball,” he said. “There was nothing like it.”
Potter said the team was well over .500 on the season that spring.
Potter’s junior year ended one win shy of the regional tournament and his senior season ended with a third-round loss in District 10 post-season.
Potter was awarded All District 10 player his senior year in baseball.
One of Potter’s best memories as a collegiate athlete, he said, was in a basketball game against Benedictine College.
He put up 28 points and the team won the game on the road.
“I just remember feeling like there was no shot I couldn’t take that wasn’t going to go in on that day,” Potter said.
In baseball, Potter mentioned one specific double-header that he played in. His whole college career, Potter was a first baseman, but Potter could also get on the hill and pitch.
“I threw a ton of BP because I could just get in and throw strikes.”
A lot of games were rained out back-to-back, so the team played seven straight double-headers. On the sixth day, Potter said that his head coach asked him if he could start the next game as a pitcher, just to save the starting pitchers’ arms for the next day.
Potter said they won the first game 9-1 and he had only thrown 73 pitches.
“I’m thinking, ‘Okay, job well done,’ and I was done pitching,” he said.
Potter said that as he was walking off the field, Sanagorski asked him if he could give the team a few innings in the next game and Potter said yes.
“I threw a complete second game,” he said.
At the end of the day, Potter had thrown not only a complete game, but a complete double-header, which is nearly unheard of in baseball.
“Nobody throws two games in baseball. Ever,” Potter said. “Not only did I throw a complete double-header, but I never threw another pitch for Newman again.”
Potter has gone down in history as the only pitcher to throw a complete double-header at Newman.
Potter said from playing to coaching, it’s been great watching Newman progress athletically.
“It was such a different place. It’s been an amazing transformation to see.”
Potter said that the athletic facilities and amenities Newman athletes have today are something to be grateful for, considering they had nothing of the sort in his time.
“You don’t think about it at the time, you just do it,” he said. “It’s what we had. It’s what we did And I wouldn’t do it any differently.”
This story first appeared in the February 23rd, 2017 issue of The Vantage