Ragsdale’s Horkey signs with Charlotte
Matt Horkey sensed he could be a pretty good baseball player as a youngster. He’d always had a strong arm and was a step above many kids his age on the baseball field.
During his career at Ragsdale, though, he has been challenged to meet even higher expectations, and, through dedication and hard work, he has succeeded. Now, he’s signed with UNC Charlotte to continue his career at the NCAA Division I level.
“It’s very fulfilling,” says Horkey, the son of Tim and Lynette of Jamestown, of signing. “It’s very easy to go to bed at night and know you’re going to play college baseball, and that’s what you want to do.
“Every hard practice, every hour in the gym, it’s just all worth it to me. It’s really a blessing. There are a million kids who’d like to be in my position right now. I know what I have to do, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity.”
Horkey started playing baseball when he was 5 years old, inspired by his dad, who grew up a Detroit Tigers fan. Although he also played soccer and basketball during his youth, he felt most at home with a bat and glove on the baseball field.
“Being left-handed is a rarity, so I had that in my favor,” he says. “And I was blessed with a good arm. I could always toss the ball the farthest on the playground. As soon as I put on that glove, it felt right. And I just had that love for the game.”
Coming out of middle school, Horkey had already had some success and the Ragsdale baseball team was in a period of transition. So, as coach Donnie Maness says, he was the team’s best option at several positions.
Still, the idea of being a freshman against seniors in a conference that often has some of the best teams in the area was challenging. But, through the ups and downs, he realized what he needed to do to succeed and focused on improving.
“That’s not intimidating — playing with the grown men and I’m just a little shrimp out there,” he says with a laugh. “I was blessed with that talent to make it through as a freshman, and I just kept getting stronger over the years. With my work ethic, that really aided me.
“Being a freshman and being the weakest one on the field, that made me realize: I need to get in the weight room. I thought I was throwing hard at Jamestown (Middle), but when I got on the mound it was very tough to get it by someone. That was a wakeup call for me.”
As a four-year varsity starter, Horkey developed into one of the area’s top pitchers who could also contribute well in the field and in the middle of the hitting order. He’s twice been named All-Piedmont Triad 4A Conference and team pitcher of the year.
He was also team MVP and runner-up for PTC pitcher of the year as a junior and was chosen for the Powerade State Games over the summer, in which he pitched well (hitting the upper 80s) and opened the door to a number of offers from top programs.
“He just loves baseball, and that desire to be good has always been there,” Maness says. “He’s always had that fire. Because he’s had that desire, he was able to handle a few bumps. … Even as a freshman, he had days when he was overpowering. Now, he’s turned into a guy who’s overpowering most of the time.”
In looking at schools, he narrowed his top choices to also include North Carolina, UNC Wilmington, East Carolina and Clemson. But the opportunity at Charlotte, both athletically and academically, was what he wanted, and he chose the 49ers.
“Everything that I was looking for in a college they had to offer,” he says. “I want to go into kinesiology or sports medicine, and they have that. The opportunity and even the distance from home — those were a big part of it. When it came down to it, it all just felt right.”