Yockey Wears Ring Proudly After Leading L-C State To Crown

Mark Yockey sat in the winning dugout and fought a losing battle with his emotions.

Lewis-Clark State had just won its third straight NAIA baseball title at home in Lewiston, Idaho, last June. But the junior left-hander from Woodinville High School wore a long face during what seemed like an eternal awards ceremony.

``I was sitting there thinking about how I didn't get to pitch in the world series. Me and another guy were really down,'' Yockey said.

``You have to go out there and accept your award in front of everybody. I was probably as nervous as I've ever been. Five thousand people - and I know nobody knew who the hell I was. I was scared. I did not want to go out there.''

Yockey watched his L-C State Coach Ed Cheff shake hands with and present an award to each starter, each pinch-hitter, each pinch-runner, each contributor. And then it was his turn.

``When I went out there, he goes, `Hey, you'll be here next year.' ''

Yockey said, ``Yeah, right. This is the last time I'll ever see you.''

Yockey made the comment under his breath, but the thought was loud and clear in his mind.

``I thought my competitive days of baseball were over with.''

Nearly a year later, on a Saturday night in Lewiston, Yockey stood on the mound in triumph.

It was the 1990 NAIA World Series opener for L-C State, and Yockey was the Warrior starter.

``I looked over in the dugout, and I looked where I would have been sitting the year before,'' he said. ``It was a different perspective from the mound than from the dugout.''

Yockey walked the first batter he faced but settled down for a five-hit, 12-strikeout, 8-0 victory over Lewis and Clark of Portland.

``I wanted a ring this year, and I wanted to wear it with pride,'' he said. ``I wanted to have something that I felt I contributed to.''

He added another 12-strikeout, complete-game victory in the tournament, leading the Warriors to their fourth straight NAIA crown. He was selected the seven-state Area 1 Player of the Year Award and first-team All-American.

Last week the San Francisco Giants made him a 15th-round draft pick.

``I can picture him pitching in the big leagues, and I've never said that much about my kids,'' Cheff said.

As a junior, Yockey pitched 43 1/3 innings of mostly middle relief and went 3-1 with a 5.61 earned-run average in his first year.

``I just stunk it up,'' he said.

As a senior and a starter, he was 10-1 with 107 strikeouts, 40 walks and a 2.12 ERA in 106 1/3 innings - before the World Series.

Yockey said the difference between the two years was the difference between his ears.

``I'm the kind of guy who needed a lot of confidence put in me up until my senior year,'' he said. ``I got over that this year.''

The big boost came from compiling an unbeaten record last summer pitching for the semipro Seattle Studs.

``That put back in me the confidence I needed,'' he said.

``It wasn't anything we did for him,'' Cheff said. ``No change in his delivery. It was just something he did on his own.''

Bill Stubbs, Yockey's coach at Edmonds Community College during all-conference seasons in 1987 and '88, might have had difficulty recognizing Yockey in '89.

``I always thought of him as really confident. That kid wanted the rock all the time. In fact, it was hard to get him off the mound.''

If Yockey has his way, it will become even harder when he starts pitching for the Giants' Northwest League team in Everett.

``I'm not satisfied,'' he said. ``I still have a long way to go. I still have a lot of baseball in me.''