Student-athletes from across Grayson County were recognized for their accomplishments and efforts on the playing field over the past year during the third annual All-Texomaland All Star preps sports banquet Monday night. The event included a banquet and awards for the region’s best athletes.

“The athletes we had the privilege to honor tonight are the best Grayson County has to offer,” Texoma Marketing and Media Group Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriquez said. “And the amazing thing is, not only are these students some of the best athletes in the state, they’re also great kids that make their communities proud. This event allows us to celebrate these student-athletes and recognize all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made, as well as those of their coaches and families.”

This year’s event featured a question and answer session with former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who played for more than a decade in Arlington across two stints with the team. The famed catcher was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 in his first year of eligibility.

Ivan Rodriguez spoke on a variety of topics ranging from meeting his childhood hero Johnny Bench, who he met during his Hall of Fame induction, to moving from Puerto Rico to the continental U.S. to play baseball in the late 1980s.

He said that move, in particular living away from his parents, was one of the most difficult parts of his career. Despite the distance, he said it was the influence of his parents that led him to have the discipline to continue to play the game.

“They saw my talent, saw I was a very good baseball player and raised me in the sport,” Ivan Rodriguez said.

The former Rangers all-star encouraged the student-athletes to remain diligent and disciplined in their pursuits in sports and life.

“Discipline is very important,” Ivan Rodriguez said. “I think that’s probably the thing I would like most to put into those kids’ minds. Having a good discipline and playing the game hard and doing things the right way — that’s the key and probably what I’m going to be focusing on tonight.”

Among the student-athletes recognized Monday night was Scout Sanders of Whitesboro, who was named male athlete of the year for his accomplishments in football, basketball and baseball. Sanders went to the playoffs on teams for all three sports.

Sanders lauded all of the athletes who were chosen for the evening’s recognitions, adding that all of them deserved to be All-Texomaland.

“It kind of takes a lot of work and I know everyone has put in as much as I have,” he said. “You can’t take time off and you have to go at it every day.”

Sanders said he was excited to hear from Ivan Rodriguez, noting that baseball is his favorite sport.

“From one baseball guy to another, it is going to (great to) be able to hear his testimony and stories,” Sanders said.

Female athlete of the year was awarded to Denison’s Lindsay Looney for her accomplishments in swimming. Looney ended her high school career this year with seven state championships and a runner-up finish. In February, she defended her state titles in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly while setting 5A records.

The coach of the year award was presented to Jimmy Haynes of Van Alstyne, who recently led his team to state-level play over the past weekend. Haynes said being invited and recognized was a great honor for him and his team.

“I think it is a great award because you are talking about many schools that have players here,” he said.

Tom Bean assistant basketball coach Chad Ashlock was recognized Monday with the Deckard-Woodlee-Pelton Courage Award. Ashlock, who copes with multiple sclerosis, continues to be an active leader for his school’s team.

“Coach Ashlock is the epitome of the courage award,” Herald Democrat Sports Editor Jason Della Rosa said. “Dealing with a disease, he still puts the team and athletes of Tom Bean first and he is a well-deserving recipient for this year’s award.”

Nate Rodriguez thanked the sponsors who helped recognize the region’s athletes and made Monday’s event possible.

“This event would not be possible without our partner, Texoma Medical Center, and title sponsors, Classic of Texoma, Parkway Buick GMC, as well as the supporting sponsors and table sponsors,” he said. “These local businesses believe in these students and the community in this celebration.”