Watch: Harmon and Baker Cox discuss impact of late father had on baseball career
A.C. Flora baseball coach Andy Hallett says it’s still strange not seeing Russell Cox standing down the right field line near the bullpen at Falcons’ home games this season.
That was Cox’s usual spot for home games watching twin sons Harmon and Baker playing for the Flora baseball team. Cox died unexpectedly in October at the age of 53. The news of his death stunned family, friends and those around the A.C. Flora community where the Cox family is a fixture.
“You knew where he was going to be standing. We miss him tremendously and he was a tremendous father and husband,” Hallett said. “Was in total disbelief when Kathy called and told me. Didn’t know what to feel or say. I have known Russ since he used to bring the boys to my camps when they were 5 years old. He was a big supporter of our baseball program. Love those two kids like they were my own and am going to do what I can do to help them.”
Russell Cox’s death wasn’t the only one suffered by Flora baseball family in recent months. Mary Bytnar, mother of starting outfielder Jake Bytnar, died in December after a battle with Alzheimer’s.
“My guys have been through a lot already before we took the field this season,” Hallett said. “Very proud of them staying the course because what they have had to deal with. I couldn’t imagine what they have had to go through.”
Harmon and Baker Cox, separated at birth by just two minutes, have had their good and bad days since their father’s death. They credit mother Kathy, coach Hallett, friends and family for helping them get through the last few months.
The two juniors continue to play for their father, who played in college at Anderson and got them involved with the game when they were 4 years old. There was a pitching mound in their back yard where their father would catch each of them and a batting cage where he threw batting practice to sharpen their skills.
“Everything we know now is because of him. He wanted us to work hard and that is what we are going to do,” Baker Cox said. “He was at every game and I know it is weird looking over there and not seeing him there. But I know he is watching over us, helping us out.”
The two have reminders of their father with them constantly. They each have necklaces of their father, which Baker has in his black truck. There also is a sticker on their cars with the saying “Until We See You Again,” their father’s name and deer antlers to show their father’s love of hunting.
The brothers also listen to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which their dad used to play before each game. Baker has his father’s old number, 14, and “For Dad” written on his glove.
On the field, the brothers have been a key part of the Falcons pitching staff. Harmon, who is committed to Clemson, leads the team with three saves and had a 0.95 ERA in 7 1/3 innings pitched. Baker, who committed to Charleston Southern last week, is 2-0 with 12 strikeouts and hasn’t given up an earned run in nine innings this season.
“He always told us to give 100 percent and try the best we could,” Harmon Cox said. “I know he wouldn’t want me to quit. It just pushes a little harder because I know he would push me.”
▪ With only five teams each in Region 4-5A and Region 5-5A, the regions are playing their conference contests in three-game series Monday, Wednesday and Friday this year. The matchups include this week:
Dutch Fork vs. River Bluff; Lugoff-Elgin vs. Spring Valley; White Knoll vs. Chapin; Blythewood vs. Irmo
Other key games this week include: AC Flora vs. Lexington (Wednesday at Segra Park)
▪ Nine Midlands teams are ranked in the latest SC Baseball Coaches polls. Gray Collegiate is ranked for the first time in school history.
Defending state champion White Knoll softball is ranked No. 15 in this week’s MaxPreps Top 25 poll. The Wolves are off to 7-0 start and have won 12 in a row dating to last season.
▪ Clemson commit Carsten Puckett has transferred from Gray Collegiate to Cardinal Newman’s softball program. She is hitting. 475 with three homers and 13 RBIs.