Close Receives 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