Editor's note: College Baseball Nation is joined by guest writer, Riley Zayas, for coverage of the Texas Collegiate League. Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kid reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports magazine and website. He is passionate about all things sports and can be followed on Twitter at @ZayasRiley.
Cody Vannoy is loving it. Playing the entire summer in a stadium that he grew up going to as a kid. Helping the Round Rock Hairy Men battle for a playoff spot. And the thought that next year he will be playing D1 baseball. It still seems surreal, and is a summer Vannoy will never forget. There are times when sports transcends the importance of winning or losing. This summer has certainly been one of those times.
“It is really cool, with everything going on to be playing here,” said Vannoy, a catcher for the Round Rock Hairy Men. “To be playing at Dell Diamond is something really near and special to my heart. Last year I played in Illinois, so my family couldn’t come see me play, but now they can come out. It’s been a blast.”
Growing up in Leander, Texas, Vannoy took a different route than most playing at the high school level. Homeschooled through fifth grade, he began going to Summit Christian Academy (SCA) in middle school, a small private school in Central Texas, where the baseball team was still in its infancy stage. In fact, by the time Vannoy got to high school, he was one of, if not the only, player on the team who had played travel baseball. A starter as a freshman, the team was so small that he remembers begging friends to come play, just so the Eagles could field a team
“Summit was such a small school and was such a big part of my life from 6th grade to 10th grade,” said Vannoy. “Being on a small team like that, you’re not going to get guys that have been playing for so long. There were several guys who I was begging to come play so we could field a baseball team.”
While the baseball team may not have been at the level of competitiveness of many other area schools, Vannoy took away something much greater than just an improvement on the diamond by going to SCA. He gained in his maturity, as he calls the game from behind the plate at catcher, playing “quarterback” out on the field. Along with that, his coaches taught him how to lead.
“I learned how to play with those guys, how to have fun, it taught me a lot,” said Vannoy. “The competition we played, I was lucky to be on varsity as a freshman. That gave me the opportunity to be mentored by some of the upperclassmen who maybe didn’t have as much experience baseball-wise, but maturity wise I learned a lot from them.. Coming in, I had played travel ball and was at a private school which is pretty rare, so I kind of had a big head early on, but my coaches, Chad Hoffman and Sean Pullard were guys who always kept me level headed and are still great friends, and lifetime mentors.”
That was not the only unique part of his two years with the Eagles. Being that TAPPS baseball rules allow for girls to play baseball if the school does not offer a softball team, Vannoy’s younger sister, Bailey, was on the team along with Cody for one season before the two transferred to Rouse High school . Bailey currently plays college softball for D1 UNC-Charlotte, and like Cody, is a catcher. During games, it was often the Vannoy duo leading the way, with Cody on the mound and Bailey behind the plate, or the two swapping out time behind the plate.
“It was really cool to play with my sister,” said Vannoy. “I’d catch for six innings and then she’d catch. It was super rare and she said it helped her on the softball side too. It was really great to see that dynamic and I never thought we would have been able to do it unless it was in like YMCA or something.”
He then spent two successful years at Rouse High to close out his prep career, even earning the District 19-5A MVP as a senior. The baseball adjustment was not challenging, his level of play was already drawing interest from college coaches, but the obvious differences that came with transitioning to a public school still stick in his mind today.
“It was funny, I always told people how I always thought public schools were movies like ‘high school musical’ and stuff you see on Disney Channel growing up because you don’t know what it is like. I was homeschooled, went to private school, then finished at public school, so I hit all three which is rare.”
Vannoy moved onto the D1 level with UT-Rio Grande Valley to begin his college career. He transferred to Tarleton State, a D2 school, for the 2020 season. In 12 starts, he hit .366 with seven RBI and six walks. A two way player, he can also pitch, and has made two appearances on the mound so far with the Hairy Men.
In July, Tarleton officially became a D1 program, and a member of the Western Athletic Conference. He is beyond thrilled about that huge advancement for the Texan baseball program. In just 30 years, the school has gone from a small NAIA institution to a D1 member.
"I was in the WAC with UTRGV so now we get to go there [Tarleton State] and play against all those guys, so that will be really fun and cool.” -Cody Vannoy
“It’s super cool. I was able to transfer down to a division two, play there, get that experience, is great. It’s really cool to see how the university is coming together, especially during this crazy time. We definitely need to be together as one. I’m a little bit different since I transferred there, so I was in the WAC with UTRGV so now we get to go there and play against all those guys, so that will be really fun and cool.”
Vannoy says the high level of pitching he has faced in the Texas Collegiate League will help him greatly as he makes the transition to D1 pitching. While he spent one season in the WAC with UTRGV, he did not appear in a game for the Vaqueros.
Heading into the final three games of the season, Round Rock is in prime position. Following a series sweep of Brazos Valley, the Hairy Men now lead the south division, and only need a win over San Antonio Saturday night to secure their spot in the TCL playoffs.
“I think our big thing, especially behind the plate, I can’t speak much for the pitchers, is filling up the zone,” said Vannoy when asked about the message right now in the locker room. “At the plate we’re all just waiting for our pitch, making sure we get a good swing off and playing team baseball. Making sure we’re not hitting for the home run, and that we’re playing for each other and playing really well.”
For Vannoy, this has been a memorable summer. And who knows? He has aspirations to one day return to Dell Diamond. Maybe it will be as a pro player, or maybe it will be in the press box. A journalism and broadcasting major, the junior catcher does not know what his future holds, but he wants to do something with baseball.
“I don’t know what God has in future for me,” said Vannoy chuckling. “I love the Express, I’ve been coming [to Dell Diamond] all my life. When my college career ends, whether that be playing professional baseball, or finishing in college, I’ll definitely hit these guys up and if they don’t have a spot for me here, somewhere else. I’d love to be able to be around the game, that’s my passions, baseball and talking.”
Here in the TCL, he’s done all the talking he has needed to with his bat, hitting .308 on the season with 12 hits, four runs, and three RBI.