NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va. - To the students at Oak Glen Middle School, "Mr. Enochs" suddenly became famous last week when it was announced that he was being inducted into the West Virginia University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Chris Enochs, a 1994 graduate of Oak Glen High School, is completing his first year as assistant junior high principal at his alma mater.
"Some of the students and parents knew that I had played professional baseball, but I didn't think that many did," Enochs said with a smile. "I'm not one of those guys who goes around telling people about my career. "
As a college sophomore, Enochs propelled the Mountaineers into the NCAA tournament, pitching a complete game versus Rutgers. He then came back two days later to pitch the final inning versus Notre Dame in the Big East Finals to clinch the NCAA bid, which was WVU's last tournament appearance. A week later, Enochs hurled a complete game victory versus Georgia Southern in the NCAA Atlantic Regional.
As a junior, the Newell native went 12-1 for the Mountaineers, with 10 complete games and an outstanding 3.03 ERA. He twirled a no-hitter versus Villanova that season, which was only a passed ball away from being a perfect game. A durable pitcher, Enochs won 19 of his final 21 decisions for the Mountaineers. A first-team All-American and Big East Pitcher of the Year, Enochs' efforts were rewarded when the Oakland Athletics selected the righthander with the 11th pick in the first round of the 1997 June Draft. This is the highest-ever that a WVU player has been selected.
Originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 59th round of the 1994 June Free Agent Draft, Enochs opted instead to attend WVU.
"Education was always important in my family," he said. "When I finished up playing in 2005, I knew that I wanted to go back and get my degree. That was important to me. I had always thought that I wanted to go into education, so after getting my bachelor's degree from WVU, I then obtained my teaching certificate from Wheeling Jesuit."
While teaching social studies in the Midland and Lincoln Park systems, Enochs completed the coursework for his master's degree, which led to him returning to Oak Glen for the 2013-14 school year.
"I love being back here at Oak Glen. I grew up in Newell and we live in Chester," he said. "This is home to me."
During a professional baseball career that took him literally all over the country, Enochs had established timelines and realized that family was important.
"My wife Jennifer was great about moving each year to whatever city I was playing in," he said. "But a baseball player is gone for half the season, being on the road. Plus, there is spring training for four to six weeks. For the last couple years of my career, I played winter ball in Puerto Rico."
While some players don't enjoy the Caribbean culture, Enochs embraced it.
"I had a great time in Puerto Rico," he said. "I had some great teammates. Plus, it really helped my development as a pitcher. I was able to work on pitching and not worry about putting up numbers to impress the organization. I really wish I had gone to winter ball earlier in my career."
After spending two years at Triple-A in the A's organization, Enochs inked a contract with the Houston Astros for the 2004 season and was sent him to Triple-A New Orleans. The following year, Enochs signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning an invite to big league camp. After the spending the 2005 season with the Pirates' top farm team in Indianapolis, Enochs decided that it was time to focus on the rest of his life.
"We were expecting our second child, Macey, I was approaching 30 years old," he said. "While that isn't old, it is getting old to be hoping to make it to the big leagues. I might have been able to make it to the majors, for perhaps and month or two, but it was time for us to get on with our life as a family."
Enochs wrapped up his professional career with a record of 45-52 in 249 games, including 141 starts. He was 18-16 at the Triple-A level. At one time, rated the the No. 3 prospect in the A's organization by "Baseball America", Enochs' career was stalled in 1999 and 2000 with arm miseries.
"Injuries, especially for pitchers, are a part of the game," Enochs said. "You do your best not to get injured, but it happens."
The 1994 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year in baseball, as well as being an all-state quarterback in football and a basketball standout, Enochs was highly-sought after by the colleges.
"Pitt and West Virginia both wanted me for football, but I thought eventually I might have a chance in pro baseball," he said. "Sometimes, you wonder, 'What-if?' Bbut in football you are only one play away from having your career end. I'm happy with the choice I made."
In addition to keeping busy at Oak Glen, Enochs finds time to help coach his daughter Reece's team.
"It's great still being involved in sports and working with Reece and her friends. I'm sure I'll get involved with Macey's teams if she gets involved in sports," said Enochs, who was an assistant coach on Lincoln Park's 2012 state finalist basketball team.
"I still make it back to WVU for at least one football and one basketball game a year," Enochs said. "They have an alumni baseball every spring, but I generally have too much going on around here with our own children to make it down. I'm very glad that I picked West Virginia as the school to go to."
The 2014 WVU Athletic Hall of Fame Class will be inducted on Sep. 20, prior to the West Virginia-Oklahoma football game. This is the 24th induction class and brings to the number of enshrinees to 156.