Keystone infielder and Hazleton Area graduate Chris Panzarella switched his jersey number from 19 to 22 for his senior season. The last Giant to wear that number was Sean Murphy in 2010. About to break into the major leagues with the Oakland Athletics, he died suddenly, in 2016, of heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). He was just 27 years old.
Instead of retiring the number, Keystone Baseball Coach Jamie Shevchik decided to create the Sean Murphy Memorial No. 22 Leadership Award, assigning the jersey number to a worthy senior. Panzarella was the first to receive the giant honor, as the Hazle Township-native was the perfect person to shoulder Murphy's memory.
"Honestly, I feel like I'm representing just something more than keystone and myself," Panzarella said. "I know he was drafted to the A's and I feel like I'm just representing him and his family."
"We didn't let anyone wear Sean's jersey for a couple of years," Shevchik said. "We thought about retiring it and then we came up -- my coaches and I -- came up with an idea of why don't we name an award after Sean? A leadership award, somebody who's good in the classroom and committed to Keystone. Chris is the ideal candidate and he reflects everything of what the award is about."
"When he asked me, I kind of paused for a couple of seconds and I was sitting in his office for a couple of minutes," Panzarella recalled. "I knew it was a no-brainer that I had to do it. Just for him to pick me for that, it means so much."
"You wish you had 35 kids like Chris," Shevchik added. "He's a hard-working kid. Not just a good baseball player, but he's really good in the classroom. He does everything right. He's our team captain, our team leader. There's going to be some tough shoes to wear No. 22 next year when Chris graduates."
Shevchik says he hopes to make this award an annual tradition at Keystone, but only if there is a senior who truly deserves No. 22.