Charles Henderson celebrates second consecutive title with Blue Map Dinner

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2014

After all the pomp and circumstance of the Blue Map Dinner had passed, Charles Henderson’s Derek Irons stood alone in the cafeteria, eyeing the two state trophies his most recent teams captured.

The two trophies, affectionately called “blue maps” by players and coaches around the state because of their depiction of the state of Alabama, sat next to one another on a table on the stage.

After a long stare, Irons summed up his thoughts with two words: “Blessed” and “Surreal.”

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“It is really hard to put in to words what it really means to see them both sitting there together,” Irons said. “Each of the 23 different guys that were a part of them did everything they were asked to do. It is really amazing to think about what has happened here over the last two years. It has truly been a blessing.”

Charles Henderson officially put the wraps on the 2014 baseball season Tuesday night by hosting the Blue Map Dinner.

The dinner began last year, following Charles Henderson’s first baseball state title in a decade, as a fundraiser to offset some of the cost associated with the purchase of state championship rings.

While the dinner is a still a fundraiser at its core, Irons said it is about much more than raising a few bucks.

“Each of these guys are really good baseball players individually, but they combine to make an amazing team,” Irons said. “We talked about it during the state championship, that baseball isn’t about one player or one game. It is about a group of guys coming together to do something special. These guys did that and I am so happy for them to get the recognition the deserve.”

The 2014 Charles Henderson baseball team became the first team in the history of the school to win back-to-back state championships. Along the way to the title, the Trojans racked up 38 wins, which is the second highest single-season total in school history.

Charles Henderson also set a new Alabama High School Athletic Association state record with 92 hit-by-pitches.

Irons feel that record sums up the team perfectly.

“These guys were never selfish,” Irons said. “To get in that box, and lock it in and be willing to take a pitch on the body takes a special player. They were all willing to do whatever it takes to make this team successful.”

Five CHHS players – John Michael Stephens, Chase Smartt, John Johnson, Austin Ingram and Xavius Burden – picked up All-Area nods, and Smartt, Stephens and Ingram were selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Team.

Smartt was also selected as the 4A Hitter of the Year, becoming the second Charles Henderson player in as many years to be honored, and elected to the Super All-State Team.

Ingram, who was named MVP of the state finals, said the feeling of winning back-to-back titles is just beginning to fully hit him.

“I’ve had a little time to let it all sink in, and it gets better every day,” Ingram said. “It is such a great feeling knowing that we did it, not just once, but two times in a row. It has been two years that I will never forget.”