Tornado sweeps up Unaka's Lewis

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The King College Tornado landed in Stoney Creek and swept up another great athlete.
   Close to finishing a solid four-year mark on the high school baseball diamond, Unaka senior Chad Lewis fulfilled a dream by signing to play the sport at the next level for the Appalachian Athletic Conference school.
   A solid athlete in three sports over the course of his high school career for the Rangers, Lewis is one of the few Carter County athletes to make his way to state tournaments in three sports.
   He was a part of Unaka's basketball team during its 2002 run to the state tourney, and more recently achieved success on the golf course by finishing 36th out of 71 golfers in the 2003 state golf tournament in Savannah, Tenn..
   But it's baseball where he really shines.
   Lewis earned all-state honors as a junior, helping lead Unaka's baseball team to the state baseball tournament in Memphis, and is on pace to do the same as a senior.
   He is currently hitting .455 with 25 RBIs and an on-base percentage around .700.
   "I think they're getting a steal, I really do," said Unaka baseball coach Mike Ensor. "We're awfully proud of Chad. A lot of what he's done is through hard work and dedication to making himself a good baseball player."
   "He's never going to be the biggest, fastest or strongest kid in the field, but more often than not, he's the best baseball player," he added.
   Lewis is excited about his opportunity.
   "It's real exciting," Lewis said Monday at Unaka. "I can't wait to go over to King and make a good impression on Coach Kleinmann, not only on the baseball field but in the classroom as well."
   "As soon as I begin my freshman year, I hope to make an immediate impact on the baseball team if it's my opportunity," he said.
   King College coach Craig Kleinmann was very pleased to sign Lewis.
   "I think he's definitely the type of person we're looking for," said Kleinmann, whose team finished second in the AAC Tournament this season.
   "He's a great player. I've watched him several times and looked at him as he's came up through the ranks," he said. "We just like how he plays and how he acts off the field."
   "It's good to have players from good programs and guys that play hard. We think he'll come right in and fit in and do a good job."
   Kleinmann said he never promises playing time, but Lewis will get the chance to contribute.
   "If he works hard, we'll see what happens," he said. "I never promise anybody anything. They'll get their fair shot and if they beat each other out, they'll get a chance."
   Chad's strong work ethic has proven successful for him thus far. His current numbers are better than that of his junior campaign which saw him hit .437 with a .515 on-base percentage.
   "I've gotten a whole lot stronger, and I hope to continue that my freshman year," he said. "I want to lift weights and eat good, and get a little bit bigger."
   Lewis is the fifth baseball player Unaka has sent to the King program in recent years.
   "We've had good luck so far with Coach Kleinmann and King and we really appreciate them and what they've done," Ensor added.
   "This is the fifth kid we've sent over there," he said. "If I didn't think they had a good program and a good school, I wouldn't push kids to go over there. We're real excited for them."
   The son of Randal and Kim Lewis plans to major in either Sports Management or Teaching, with the future ambition of being a coach himself.
   "I really want to be a teacher because I want to coach baseball either at the high school or junior high level and work up to college," Lewis said.
   He credits his parents and other members of his family for their support throughout his athletic career thus far.
   "My dad and mom try to get off work as much as they can to get to every game. They hardly ever miss a game," said the senior, who also has a sister, Andrea. "My Grandpa and Grandma Grindstaff, aunts and uncles and Papaw Davis are also real supportive."
   Chad also praises the coaches he has worked with at Unaka and his teammates for their support during his tenure.
   "Coach Ensor, Coach Minton, Coach Nave, Coach Long, Coach Dorsey - all of them have been great to me," he said. "I want to thank everybody here, my teammates have been awesome."
   Of course there's one thing that he would like to do at Unaka...bring home another gold trophy.
   After playing a tenacious schedule with a lot of success, the current baseball squad is well on track to pave another road towards the Bluff City.
   "That was our main goal this year," Lewis said.
   For the Rangers to achieve that dream, they will need the help of Lewis and the rest of the unit.
   "He's hitting well over 400, leading the team," Coach Ensor added. "A lot of it's testimony to the players around him. It rubs off on the other kids and makes them play hard."