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Ex-Bobcats longtime baseball skipper Champagne enters esteemed Hall of Fame

January 18, 2019

Four years ago, former Cy-Fair head baseball coach Woody Champagne experienced something 40 years in the making, stepping away from his passion.

Champagne was honored with a plaque by athletic director and head football coach Ed Pustejovsky, at a ceremony before a playoff game vs. Cy Woods, after announcing he would be retiring following the 2014 season.

Four years later, the man that led the Bobcats for 34 years since 1980, to victory in the 2007 state title game and claimed over 600 career wins, is still being honored for his impact in high school baseball.

On Jan. 11, Champagne was inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Waco.

“This isn’t about me, but about the boys, the coaches and the school,” Champagne said via Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Champagne was inducted into the THSBCA Hall of Fame alongside former Carthage High School coach Scott Lee. Both were honored at the Hall of Fame banquet during the yearly convention, where their induction speeches were featured.

Hall of Fame nominees are chosen by their colleagues in the THSBCA, amid a number of standards including being a head baseball coach in high school or higher education for at least two decades and contributing to the physical and individual growth of the nominee’s athletes.

Throughout his 34 years at Cy-Fair, Champagne attained seven district titles, along with 10 Coach of the Year awards. The Bobcats made the playoffs 13 times and made two appearances in the state tournament, finishing second in the 1984 and winning the state championship in 2007.

Memorable teams for Champagne include the 2007 state champions, the 1984 state finalists, the many district champions and unquestionably his last team, the 2014 team.

“There were many teams that are a special memory for me,” Champagne said.

Paving the way

During his career, Champagne also received several awards, including the THSBCA All Star Coach in 1984.

In 2007, Houston Chronicle named him Coach of the Year, along with All-Metro Coach of the Year. He was the recipient of the Ray Knolblauch Award that year, as well as being inducted into the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Champagne also got things rolling for some of Cy-Fair’s present-day coaches on the baseball program.

Cy-Fair head baseball coach Billy Hardin arrived as a varsity assistant during Champagne’s last year in 2014. From 2014-2017, Hardin helped the Bobcats reach the postseason including in 2015, making it to the regional quarterfinals, and in 2016, guiding the Bobcats to a district title and the area finals.

Last year was Hardin’s first year as head coach after Paul Orlando left to become Bridgeland’s first baseball head coach in 2017. Under Hardin, the Bobcats have been able to experience similar success to when the team was under the leadership of Champagne and Orlando.

In 2018, Cy-Fair finished with a 32-11 overall record, 16-1 in district play and ranked No. five in the state. The Bobcats finished as regional finalists, only the fourth team in school history to reach that round, after losing to Cy Ranch 2-1 (7-6, 3-5, 7-0).

“Very proud to coach for the program that coach Champagne made so great, congrats Woody,” Hardin said via Twitter.

The Cy-Fair and Cy Ranch teams are also currently ranked in the top five, according to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. Cy Ranch opened the season as the top team in 6A at No. 1 in the THSBCA poll and Cy-Fair are ranked No. 4.

There’s also Johnny Sierra, defensive tackle coach and freshman basketball coach, who not only had the chance to play for Champagne at Cy-Fair but similarly had the opportunity to work with him. Sierra is starting his fifth year at Cy-Fair.

“I loved playing for him,” Sierra said via CFISD. “I got to come back and be a student teacher with him.”

Looking back

Champagne began playing baseball at Jones High School under Bragg Stockton, who also went on to be the head coach at the University of Houston and Texas Christian University, and in 1969 followed him to San Jacinto Jr. College. As a head coach, Stockton’s teams won 895 games.

After graduating from the University of Houston in 1973, Champagne received his first head coaching job at Eisenhower High School.

At Eisenhower, Champagne won three district titles and took the Eagles to the playoffs. Six years later, Champagne was named Cy-Fair head baseball coach.

“For 34 years, I had maybe 50 or 60 boys, and each year was different, but just as amazing,” Champagne said.

At the ceremony, Champagne also recalled the time he met two prominent figures in former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former President George H.W. Bush back in 2001 at College Station when the Cy-Fair and A&M Consolidated baseball teams faced off.

Gorbachev was there to accept the first Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, and threw on a maroon Cy-Fair hat as he tossed the ceremonial first pitch with Bush gazing on.

“You just don’t forget those things,” Champagne said.

Overall, Champagne won 627 games in his 40 years of coaching, including claiming his 600th career victory during the 2013 season.

“I know how special of a place Cy-Fair is,” Champagne said. “BFND still means so much to me. And it always will.”

alvaro.montano@chron.com

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