Where are they now? Jesuit's 1997 national championship baseball team lauded

TAMPA — National recognition doesn't come easy for any sports program. It's hard-earned and often takes years of success. 2 Weeks Ago2 Weeks Ago3 Weeks AgoBut a national championship — that takes a lot of success, a wealth of talent and a little bit...

Where are they now? Jesuit's 1997 national championship baseball team lauded

TAMPA — National recognition doesn't come easy for any sports program. It's hard-earned and often takes years of success.

2 Weeks Ago

2 Weeks Ago

3 Weeks Ago

But a national championship — that takes a lot of success, a wealth of talent and a little bit of magic.

Starting in 1992, Jesuit's baseball team reached the state final four six straight seasons, finished as the runnerup twice, claimed a 1994 state championship and another in 1997, which also earned the Tigers national championship recognition from Baseball America.

The 1997 Tigers team was bursting with athletic talent, including a first-round MLB draft pick in Geoff Goetz, a group of NCAA Division I-A baseball players including Steve Shirley, who went to Tulane and two Conference USA championship and reached the College World Series in 2001; college football players like George Godsey (Georgia Tech) and Josh Cervi (Boston College); and Terry McCormick, the Alvarez Award winner as Hillsborough County's top high school soccer player in 1997.

Tonight, the current crop of Tigers will honor the 20th anniversary of that 1997 team, which posted a 34-3 record before defeating Pasco 7-1. The celebration begins at 6 p.m. prior to a preseason game.

For coach John Crumbley, who won three state titles while at Jesuit and last season led Steinbrenner High to its first state baseball championship, the legacy of the program is something that is still fresh in his memory today.

"Six consecutive final fours from 1992-97, two state titles, two runnerup finishes, and to have that run culminating in a team being named national champion that's an incredible run," Crumbley said. "You relish that moment for the school, for the kids, for yourself, it really was and still is a tremendous feeling for us all."

Let's take a look at what some of the members of that 1997 team are up to now:

Benjamin Clark, pitcher

Present: Executive Chef at ¡CUATRO at TPC Tampa Bay

Since 1997: A torn rotator cuff hampered Clark's senior season at Jesuit, and a second rotator cuff injury while on scholarship at Brown University ended Clark's playing days. A childhood love sparked by cooking with his grandmother sent Clark down a different path. After a return home, Clark was among the first graduating classes from the Art Institute of Tampa and served time in a number of the area's top kitchens before taking on the title of executive chef for TPC's restaurant ¡CUATRO.

Preseason spark: "I remember the day I walked into the cafeteria and Steve Shirley and Geoff Goetz were sitting at a table when the USA Today preseason list came out and we were ranked No. 3 in the nation. We knew this was going to be a special year … and the goal from there wasn't to win districts, then it was to beat everyone by 10 runs and be ridiculously awesome."

George Godsey, leftfielder

Present: NFL and college football coach

Since 1997: Also a standout for Jesuit's football team, Godsey went on to play quarterback for Georgia Tech where he set the Yellow Jackets' single-season passing yardage record with 3,085 yards in 2001, and threw for 41 career touchdowns. After his playing career he spent time as a running backs and quarterbacks coach for the University of Central Florida, was a position coach for the New England Patriots (2011-13), before spending three seasons with the Houston Texans, including serving as offensive coordinator from 2015-16.

Geoff Goetz, starting pitcher and centerfielder

Present: Business implementation coach for the Achieve Institute and current Jesuit assistant

Since 1997: A preseason All-American as a senior with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball in high school, Goetz was selected No. 6 overall in the 1997 MLB first-year player draft by the New York Mets. Goetz was on a major-league track, reaching the spring training 40-man roster on two occasions before a shoulder injury persisted throughout his nine-year minor league career with the Mets, Florida (now Miami) Marlins and New York Yankees organizations. Goetz transitioned his competitive athletic career to the business world working for the Achieve Institute, serving as a team-building and strategy contractor for clients and companies. Goetz has also served as Jesuit baseball assistant coach for the past 10 years.

Building a lifelong bond: "It's a reason to get back together and finishing No. 1 in the country is amazing … but I think back even through my pro career and my current job, just being able to play with friends, who pulled for each other, to feel that pride when I put that uniform on sticks out for all of us. I don't know a lot of people who get to feel that feeling, I carry those values in everything I do."

Tim Nalls, shortstop

Present: Construction manager and current Jesuit assistant since 2004

Since 1997: Nalls continued his playing career at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and earned a degree in history. He returned to Tampa and works as the construction manager for Swenson Construction. Nalls has also spent 14 years as an assistant coach at Jesuit and serves as the Tigers third base coach. While a coach at Jesuit, Nalls has helped continue the winning tradition including eight more state final four appearances, two runnerup finishes and a 2014 state championship.

Driven by the spotlight: "As an adult and a high school baseball coach, you realize how special that accomplishment really is … I remember getting the USA Today every Tuesday's and it having the national rankings, everyone gathered around and see where we ranked. One loss and we dropped from No. 3 to No. 9, when you are in that spotlight it fires you up and inspires you not to lose and it was something we took a lot of pride in."

Andrew Shafii, second base

Present: Ameen & Shafii, Attorneys at Law

Since 1997: Received a B.A. from the University of Florida and a juris doctorate from South Texas College of Law, before going to work as a prosecutor as an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County for five years. In 2012, he went into private practice establishing Ameen & Shafii Attorneys at Law in Tampa, working as a criminal defense attorney.

Championship moment: "For the region final against two-time defending state champion Key West, they brought three Greyhound buses full of fans to Jesuit, the whole outfield had cars lined out there and there had to be over 1,000 people out there. And we beat them in a like an hour, we won 10-0 and I hit a bases loaded triple to win it in the fifth. Then the state finals were less than a mile from home at Legends field; it was just a magical ride."

Bob Weiner, Jesuit baseball assistant coach

Present: Head football coach and English teacher at Plant High since 2004

Since 1997: Weiner served as either an assistant coach or volunteer assistant for Jesuit's baseball team for a decade, but it is as a coach on the gridiron where he's made his biggest impact. Since taking on the head coaching duties in 2004, he has led Plant to four state titles, two state runnerup finishes, and 12 straight district, while amassing a 145-27 record as a head coach.

On the Crumbley way: "John Crumbley is someone who constantly challenges his players. That challenge is something either players step up to and really excel at levels they never thought the could, or find out they aren't the right person to be in the fire. … The most compelling part of John is a continuous energy and the kids know there is no moment they are on the field playing that they are not being evaluated."

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