Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award
Alex Close, a senior first baseman/relief pitcher on Liberty's baseball team, has been named the recipient of the 2015 Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award. The award was announced as part of the FLAMESPY Award show on Monday evening.
In 1975, the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award was established to honor the top graduating senior student-athlete at Liberty University who best exemplifies the standards and lives of both of these great Christian men.
Rock Royer was Liberty's first football coach in 1973. Mac Rivera was a member of Liberty's men's basketball team from 1972 until 1975. Both Rock Royer and Mac Rivera tragically died at a young age, with Royer dying in a plane crash and Rivera passing away after a fall.
This award encompasses more than just athletic ability. It recognizes the Liberty University graduating senior student-athlete who has maintained an exemplary testimony on the playing field, in the classroom and among the student body.
"Alex Close personifies the term ‘Christian leader'," said Jim Toman, Liberty's head baseball coach. "Throughout his years on our baseball team, Alex has consistently and unapologetically proclaimed his Christian faith as the guiding force in his life, both on and off the baseball field."
"Alex is a person and player who leads by example. No matter if he goes 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 at the plate, Alex gives all the glory to God. Not only does Alex set a Godly example for his teammates, he uses every game as a platform to spread the gospel with players on competing teams."
Close enters the later portion of his senior season ranked fifth in program history in career home runs (29), sixth in career hits (238) and seventh in career RBIs (154).
The native of Hoover, Ala., is Liberty's offensive leader this season with a .349 batting average, 61 hits, 35 RBIs and a .433 on-base percentage. Close leads the Flames with 20 multiple-hit games and has reached base in 35 consecutive games.
On the mound, Close leads the Flames with four saves and has a 2.30 ERA with a 1-1 record in 13 appearances.
Close has received numerous accolades, stretching his entire four-year career at Liberty. In 2012, he was the named Big South Freshman of the Year and to the NCBWA and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America teams.
As a junior, Close was named to the Big South All-Conference first team. He entered his senior season as the 2015 Big South Preseason Player of the Year and was selected to the Louisville Slugger and Prefect Game Preseason All-America teams.
Following his junior season, Close was selected in the 27th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals.
Close has helped the Flames to back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances and he was a key component of Liberty's 2013 Big South championship squad.
"My time at Liberty has exceeded expectations," reflected Close. "As a high school junior here at baseball camp, I could have never dreamed up what has happened the last four years."
"On the field, I have had the opportunity to play the game I love, in the nicest facility in the country, alongside the best players in the country. My dream of playing in an NCAA Regional has come true as well (twice)."
"I have grown in my faith tremendously, thanks in part to the education here, as well as, the spiritual leaders within the athletics department," continued Close. "When I arrived at Liberty, I would have definitely considered myself a believer and it did play a role in choosing Liberty. Four years later, my faith has grown from claiming faith to a deep understanding of what it means to believe, and how to truly play for an audience of one."
Close has excelled as much in the classroom as he has on the baseball diamond. As a junior, the finance major was named to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America first team. He became the second player in program history to be named a first-team selection on the top collegiate academic team in the country.
He is also a three-time Big South Presidential Honor Roll member and was named to the 2014 VaSID All-Academic team.
"I will graduate in May with a degree in financial planning, with an opportunity to use what I learned here to help people all over the world manage their money in a biblical way," said Close.
Off the field, Close has been a two-year member of Liberty's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. During his time with the committee, he has been able to volunteer in Lynchburg area schools in various roles (gift wrapping drives, school carnivals and reading programs).
Close has lived out his personal faith, co-hosting a Bible study for three years, which started for his fellow teammates but quickly grew outside the baseball program.
Close is the second baseball player in a row to be the recipient of the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award, as his former teammate Trey Lambert was last year's winner.
A total of four baseball players have received Liberty's top student-athlete honor, as Close and Lambert were joined by Dave Bream (1985) and Phillip Thompson (2006).
Close is the 45th overall recipient of this distinguished award, and this is the 40th year Liberty Athletics has presented its top athletics honor to a well-deserving graduating senior student-athlete.
Rock Royer Award 1975 - Sling Patterson - Football 1976 - David Neff - Football 1977 - Scott Goetz - Football
Mac Rivera Award 1977 - Paul Dalton - Men's Basketball
Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award 1978 - Gary Avila - Wrestling 1979 - Dave Anderson - Football 1980 - Karl Hess - Men's Basketball 1981 - David "D.J." Hertzler - Football 1982 - Sharon Snodgrass - Women's Basketball 1983 - Bill Gillespie - Football/Men's Track & Field 1984 - Rick Seilhamer - Wrestling 1985 - Sue Andrew - Women's Cross Country/Track & Field 1985 - Dave Bream - Baseball 1986 - Ron Stamer - Men's Soccer 1987 - Pam Wilder - Women's Basketball 1989 - Kathy Guetterman - Volleyball 1990 - Lynn Attwood - Cross Country/Track & Field/Women's Basketball 1991 - Craig Holiday - Wrestling 1992 - Mike Coleman - Men's Basketball 1993 - Theresa Bream - Volleyball/Women's Basketball 1994 - James Downey - Football 1994 - Matt Hildebrand - Men's Basketball 1995 - Todd Setsma - Men's Golf 1996 - Ryan Werner - Track & Field 1997 - Michael Prettyman - Track & Field 1998 - Ben Anderson - Football 1999 - Jarrod Everson - Football 2000 - Elena Kisseleva - Women's Basketball 2001 - Andrea Wildrick - Track & Field 2001 - Nathan Day - Men's Basketball 2002 - Heather Sagan - Cross Country/Track & Field 2003 - Collin Mascagni - Men's Soccer 2004 - Tatiana Tkachuk - Volleyball 2005 - Sam Gado - Football 2006 - Sonia Rodriguez - Women's Soccer 2006 - Phillip Thompson - Baseball 2007 - Arlene Zelinskas - Track & Field 2008 - Allyson Fasnacht - Women's Basketball 2009 - Beth Bennett - Softball 2010 - Chris Rocco - Football 2011 - Zach Duke - Football 2012 - Jesse Sanders - Men's Basketball 2013 - Jennifer Klugh - Cross Country/Track & Field 2014 - Trey Lambert - Baseball 2015 – Alex Close – Baseball
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