(With Park View High School slated to merge with Bluestone HS to form the new Mecklenburg County HS in 2022, the South Hill Enterprise is running an ongoing series that looks back at some of the outstanding athletes and coaches and their stories through the years. This is story No. 56 in the series.)
After a fantastic baseball career at Park View High School, standout Gary Sasser (Class of 1990) earned American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-American honors for the 1994 season at Virginia Wesleyan College when he was named the ODAC Player of the Year.
Sasser led the Dragons with 17 RBI in 1988 and batted .318 with two homeruns as Park View made a run to the VHSL Group AA, Region I title game in Coach Michael Greene’s first season at the helm.
He was a First Team All-Southside District selection in both his junior and senior seasons, losing out by one vote on Player of the Year honors in his final campaign. He was also named to the Region I second team in his senior campaign and was selected as the Park View MVP.
Sasser said several memories came to mind when he looks back on his baseball playing career for the Dragons.
“Playing for Coach Greene was the highlight of it all,” he said. “He related to us so well. He could just really break down everything. He was an inspiring coach. You would run through a brick wall for him.”
Sasser said a catch he made in the outfield against Poquoson in the regional playoffs in his sophomore season was another special memory.
“I caught a line shot in the gap in left center that shut down their rally,” he said. “We came back and scored two runs to win the game.”
Sasser also said a homerun he hit against Central of Lunenburg HS was another fond memory.
“I hit one over the press box against Lunenburg and we ended up winning the game,” he said.
Sasser was also the starting quarterback for three years for the Park View varsity football team, earning All-District honors in his final two seasons.
He was pulled up from the JV team midway through his freshman season to serve as the backup on the varsity team to Timmy Kallam.
He said one of his fondest memories was hearing his father, Leroy Sasser, announcing at home football games.
“He would never sit down during a game,” Sasser said. “I asked him about it once and he said it was a sign of respect.”
Sasser said one of his favorite games in his football career was a come-from-behind win over Bluestone HS in the annual King of the Country contest.
“We were down at halftime but came back and scored 18 unanswered points to win on homecoming,” he said.
Sasser said something else he vividly recalled was some of the big hits he took.
“There were several times that Charlie “Mort” Taylor had to come out with the smelling salt,” he said.
One specific hit he took came courtesy of Nottoway HS standout defensive end Glen Pettis who is now the head football coach for the Cougars.
“He was big and fast,” said Sasser. “I took my three steps back and he was there. When he hit me, it folded me in half. It was the only time my Mother started down the steps until she saw them sit me up.”
Following his sensational high-school baseball career, Sasser received interest from several Division 3 colleges.
“I basically went out on my own and decided to go Chowan College,” he said. “I wanted to play football and baseball there.”
As a 120-pouud football player in high-school, Sasser said he realized pretty quickly when he got to Chowan that his football career was coming to an end.
“I realized then I was a little guy,” he said with a laugh.
Sasser did play baseball for two years at Chowan.
“I stated playing about mid-season of my first year and became a starter in the outfield,” he said. “I had a good second year and hit in the low .300’s with a few homeruns. We won our conference but didn’t make it far in the tournament.”
After going to SVCC to boost his grades, Sasser decided to enroll at Virginia Wesleyan.
“Several guys I played with at Chowan were transferring there and I went down and toured the campus,” he said. “I decided to walk on and play.”
Sasser earned a starting nod about five games into his junior campaign in 1994 and had one of the best seasons in school history, becoming the first Marlins baseball player selected as the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Player of the Year.
He batted .473 that season, which is still tied for third best all-time in Marlins history. He also scored 47 runs which is tied for fifth best in school history.
Sasser’s .473 batting average was the 15th best in the country in NCAA D3 that season as he rapped out 53 hits in 112 plate appearance and smacked 10 homeruns, two of which were inside-the-park homers. His .875 slugging percentage was the third best in the country.
The Marlins went 28-4 in the regular season and finished second in the country with a .379 team batting average.
The talented outfielder was named to the ABCA All-American third team for his outstanding play.
Sasser also had a strong senior season for the Marlins.
He said some of his most vivid memories in college involved practice.
“We practiced in some of the coldest weather with the wind coming off of the ocean,” he said with a laugh. “My goatee was freezing.”
He said at the first practice, the coaching staff told the players to put their gloves and bat bags back in their vehicles.
“We ran for the next three weeks straight,” he said.
Sasser earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1995 from VWC.
While at the beach following graduation, Sasser’s father received a call from the Atlanta Braves inviting his son to a special 25-player invitation-only tryout.
“I was at the beach and had rode with someone else,” he said. “I didn’t have a way to get back. I guess I didn’t take it seriously enough.”
Sasser attended another joint tryout for the Braves and Reds several months after that.
“I just wasn’t in ball shape,” he said. “I had not been hitting any and in my mind, I didn’t perform well.”
Sasser said one of the things that made him so successful in college was the hard work he put in every day.
“I took a lot of swings,” he said. “I really took it to heart. I was hitting 400 to 500 balls a day in college.”
Sasser returned home after college and went into business with his brothers and also managed the Slip-In in Lawrenceville for several years.
He currently is the owner of the Donut Diner in Blackstone.
Gary is married to Amanda Smith Sasser. Their two children, Carrington and Maddox, are both up and coming ballplayers. Carrington plays volleyball and softball at Park View HS while Maddox is a baseball player at Park View Middle School. Sasser’s oldest daughter Sydney was also an athlete at Park View.