Overton reflects on success of 1993 RedsApril 8, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Chad Overton didn’t start the summer of 1993 with the Jasper Reds, but he became a key ingredient for their success.
Overton began playing for the Evansville Outlaws. However, it wasn’t a good fit for him. The 1992 Boonville graduate played at John A. Logan College (Ill.) and was looking for a place to play that summer. Someone he knew, Jimmy Williams, placed a call to the then-manager of the Reds, Bob Alles, who contributes to the Herald.
Alles knew the Reds’ roster was quite full at the time, but decided to invite Overton anyway.
“I watched him take batting practice and he was just hitting ropes — line drives,” Alles said. “We put him right in the middle of the order. He hit up here from Day One.”
“The Reds had a really good team that year,” Overton said. “’93 was an awesome year.”
The Reds celebrated their centennial in 1993, something Overton felt there was a lot of pride in. They wore uniform patches that year commemorating the 100th anniversary. It had a red border that was predominantly white.
A stitched baseball in the center said “100th Anniversary” on the sweet spot in red lettering. Also in red letters above the baseball was “Jasper Reds.” Below the baseball were the years 1893 and 1993.
“It just showed the nostalgia of the Jasper Reds,” Overton said.
The Reds didn’t have the most auspicious beginning that year. They started 1-4, but then they rattled off 10 consecutive wins as part of an historical season. Overton gradually earned autonomy to call his own game behind the plate, and it was his moments in the clutch that allowed the Reds to reach the National Baseball Congress World Series for the first time ever that year.
Jasper made it to the regional championship in Boonville to take on St. Wendel. The Reds found themselves in a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning when Overton launched a two-run shot to give them the lead. Jasper did not look back, pulling off a 7-2 win and advancing to the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan.
“Any time you can connect and you could put your team ahead by something that you do, it’s a great feeling,” he said. “You’re kind of like you’re proving your value.”
Their first game of the World Series was Aug. 4 against the Elkhart Dusters (Kan.) Jasper had been considered a heavy underdog, and initially, it showed. The Dusters got off to a 4-0 lead until Overton’s homer got the Reds on the board in the third inning. Jasper wound up getting the upset, 8-7.
“Hitting’s contagious, so when one person starts hitting, other people are going to follow,” Overton said. “You get big one hit, and then the other people, they say, ‘Hey, if he’s hitting, we can hit it, too.’”
The Reds didn’t win the World Series, but they finished 29-11. Those 29 wins are still their most ever. It’s a memory that Overton will never forget. It was particularly special to advance to the World Series on the high school field that he played on.
Overton sat near or at the top at many team categories at season’s end. He batted .384, which was second-highest on the team. His seven home runs, 29 RBIs and .697 slugging percentage all paced the Reds.
“I never was a home run hitter,” he said. “I would consider myself more of a doubles hitter, but occasionally, you get a ball up in the air. I always told kids, I said, ‘Do you know what a home run is?’” They’re like, ‘No.’ It’s just a long double.”
He signed to play baseball at the University of Evansville after his stint with the Reds. However, he had to take another detour in his life because the Aces weren’t a good fit for him. He left after one year. Overton regrets signing early and not looking at other schools closer. He found himself playing for Berry College in Rome, Ga. He had success there, being named an honorable mention on the NAIA All-American team as a senior. Overton was also the 1996 Georgia Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Tryouts for different major league teams came calling as well. Overton had a tryout with the Kansas City Royals and also the St. Louis Cardinals, his boyhood team, in 1997. Everybody in a Redbirds uniform at the latter tryout was either a major league scout or a minor league instructor. Someone in uniform asked Overton if he had ever been drafted or signed, to which he said no. The person asked more questions, and couldn’t believe Overton never got the opportunity.
“The first thing I did, I went and told my friend that was in the dugout with me, I said, ‘Hey, this is what he said,’” Overton said. “Then he goes, ‘Oh, man. They’re going to pick you up.’ He said, ‘I think they’ll sign you out of here.’”
Overton and everybody else who went there were told they were appreciated for coming out, but the Cards liked their organization as was, and weren’t going to be adding anybody.
“My heart just sank,” he said.
His career didn’t end there, though. He returned to Dubois County as a member of the Dubois County Dragons, a now-defunct Independent team that played in the Heartland League at the time. Overton passed up on playing for them in 1996, but St. Louis rejecting him just motivated him to play. He saw individual success even as the team had a losing record in both 1997 and 1998. He batted north of .300 and had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in both seasons. Overton earned honors as the 1997 Heartland League Player of the Year.
He walked away from the game after that. Overton knew he had a slim chance of getting signed by a team, and declined to try out again as the Dragons moved to the Frontier League in 1999. He has memories that will last a lifetime. Overton met his wife, the former Carla Fischer, in Dubois County, and he commended how hardworking the residents are.
Overton now works at Alcoa. He has recently been a coach for Boonville baseball, but stepped down to watch his daughter, Madison, play softball for the Pioneers. However, she couldn’t have her senior season due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. The younger Overton is devastated, so is her father. His nephew, Reed, went to state in 2019 in the shot put as a junior, and he won’t get that opportunity to go back either.
He lives near Boonville’s Little League fields and high school fields, which he considers to be his backyard. Chad is heartbroken for all of the seniors this spring who won’t get to compete in their sport.
“As far as Major League Baseball, to me, I don’t miss that as much,” he said. “What I miss is watching these young kids in my backyard.”
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