Tanisha Huddleston went to the inaugural Merced High Hall of Fame Dinner three years ago. The former Bears track and basketball star was impressed with the event.
“I remember thinking, ‘Man, it would be so great if they ever picked me,’ Huddleston said.
Three years later, they did.
Huddleston is one of 16 individuals joining the 1978 Merced High baseball team as this year’s Merced High Hall of Fame inductees.
The Hall of Fame dinner will be held on Saturday, March 24 at the Merced Fairground’s Yosemite Hall. The doors will open at 5 p.m. and the dinner/program will start at 7 p.m.
“I was overjoyed when I found out,” Huddleston said. “I’m an old fogy. They didn’t forget about me.”
Joining Huddleston on the list of 2018 inductees is Kareem Anderon (basketball), Rollo Adams (baseball), Joy Boyenga (basketball), Steve Coupland (Aquatics), Jamila Demby (track), Marvin Eastman (wrestling/football), Mike Evans (baseball), Ron Ewing (golf), Felicia Johnson (track), Bart Nuttall (football/track), Roger Roberts (wrestling), Ruben Schmidt (football), Jesse Thompson (football/basketball) coach Jon Dibblee (coach) and Charles Ogletree (community member).
This year’s group really highlighted athletes from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Anderson, Boyenga, Demby, Eastman, Ewing, Huddleston and Johnson all graduated between 1985 and 1995.
“When you look at the list you see a lot of early 90s,” said Merced High athletic director Paul Hogue, who has spearheaded the Bears Hall of Fame. “I don’t know why it happened. I just happened.”
Evans was nominated for the Hall of Fame before, but didn’t want to go in until the 1978 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team was selected.
“I wasn’t going to go in before the team,” Evans said. “Baseball isn’t an individual sport.”
The Bears went 29-1 in 1978 en route to the section championship. Evans went 24-0 as a pitcher during his junior and senior seasons combined.
“The records speak for themselves,” Evans said. “We had a special bunch of guys because we all came up together. Some of these guys I haven’t seen in a few years. Unfortunately, you run into them at funerals. It’ll be good to see them.”
Marvin Eastman will be returning to Merced from Las Vegas for the event. Eastman was a standout on the mat and on the football field at Merced High.
He finished with a 110-8-1 record during his three-year wrestling career at Merced High. His senior year he went 42-0-1 as a senior on his way to a state championship. His tie came against future NFL running back Lorenzo Neal. He also beat another future NFL running back in Tommy Vardell in the state semifinals.
“Lorenzo Neal was one of my rivals,” Eastman said. “Later we found out we were cousins at a family reunion.”
Eastman went on to play football at Merced College and then at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and later became an MMA fighter, winning four world championships.
“I’m very appreciative of this,” Eastman said. “It’s nice when someone considers your achievements and recognizes you.”
According to Hogue, just over 400 tickets have been purchased for the event. There are still about 200 tickest available. Tickets are $50 and includes dinner.
Tickets are available at the Merced High student body office or can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3194964.
Hogue says the Hall of Fame Dinner is one of the highlights of his year.
“I love it,” he said. “I’m an alumnus, I graduated here, played sports here. This is what I wanted to to do when I became the (athletic director). I felt it was long overdue. What makes the night rewarding for me is seeing all the reactions from the inductees.
“When they walk in and see the set up, two massive screens, 600 plus seats set up. They’re like, ‘Oh, this is the real deal.’”