Prep Baseball Report

Francis Howell Baseball A Family Affair

Colby Gordon
MOKAN Columnist

Francis Howell baseball is a family affair. Literally.

It’s been that way since 2010, when longtime Vikings coach Tony Perkins’ eldest son, Zac Perkins, joined the team as a freshman.

This season, however, marks the final year of a seven-year run where Perkins has coached at least one of his four sons, as twins Justin and Ryan are seniors.

Perkins has built a baseball factory at Francis Howell, winning state titles in 2003, 20011 and 2013. He has guided the Vikings to 10 final fours and is a legend in Missouri coaching circles since becoming head coach of the Vikings in 1995. He has sent a more than 130 players on to play college baseball and regularly sends players to Division I schools.

“I’ve been a lucky man,” Tony said. “We’ve had a lot of great players that have come through. We’ve had a lot of tough-nosed kids that worked hard.”

Two years ago, five players on the University of Missouri baseball team had played at Francis Howell under Perkins. Currently, two Perkins products are in the minor leagues: Nate Orf is in the Brewers organization after playing at Baylor, and Brett Graves is in the Athletics system following a career at MU.

But Perkins’ family is a baseball factory of its own. All four of his sons will be playing college baseball next year.

Zac just finished his junior year at Lindenwood, Nic is a sophomore at Mississippi and Justin and Ryan have signed to play with Murray State.

“My wife Tracey and I have been fortunate to have kids that are pretty good athletes and baseball players,” Tony said. “It’s something I never envisioned, but it’s pretty special. They’ve been an important part of our program and our success. And they’ve done things the right way. They’ve worked hard on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.”

The Perkins family eats, breaths and sleeps baseball during the season. Around each other at practice and games, conversations about the team or games sometimes take place at home as well.

“We’re not the family that doesn’t bring it home,” Tony said. “We talk about it all the time. I’m probably hard on the twins, but luckily we get along pretty decent.”

Tracey is just as important to the baseball part of the Perkins family as anyone else. And if a debate occurs, she tends not to side with her husband.

“She’s a baseball mom. She’s into it,” said Tony, before chuckling and noting, “she’s always on the boys’ side, so don’t mess with momma’s boys.”

Zac, Nic, Justin and Ryan all played together on the 2013 Francis Howell team that won the state championship. That season provided multiple family memories, but one sticks out to Tony.

Hosting Columbia Hickman, Francis Howell led 9-0 with Justin up to bat with the bases loaded. Zac and Ryan were on second and third, with another Vikings player on first. Nic asked to pinch run for the player at first, it was granted, making the bases were loaded with Perkins and a Perkins up to bat.

Justin promptly hit a single to end the game by the 10-run rule.

Tony noted that Justin and Ryan have benefitted from having older brothers who play the game, and the twins agreed.

“It’s awesome always having family around,” Justin said. “We always have someone to talk to, always someone to reflect on, and they’re always going to be truthful. (Zac and Nic) put us under our wings and paved the way for us. They showed us what to do and how to be the best we can be.”

Next spring, for the first time ever, the twins will face one of their brothers in a game when Murray State plays Mississippi.

“It’s really cool to see our brothers in college baseball. That’s what we”ve always been working for,” Justin said. “When we face Nic and Ole Miss, I think that will be fun. It will be a lot of joking around before the game. It will be fun to play against him, especially that now he is pretty far away, we don’t get to see him as much.”
Like most twins, Justin and Ryan have a connection that carries onto the baseball field.

“We know each other pretty well out there,” Ryan said. “I can tell when he’s going to bunt 90 percent of the time.”

Added Justin: “I can tell what he’s going to do on the field. No one else can tell, so it’s definitely a twin thing. I’m always paying attention and he can tell things on me as well.”

Ryan has an interesting story of how he ended up an outfielder. Playing first base as a sixth-grader, the pitcher made an unexpected pickoff attempt that drilled Ryan in the face. Ryan actually stayed in the game, but when he went to the hospital later that night, the doctors told Tony and Tracey that Ryan had multiple broken bones in his face.

“Ever since then I’ve played outfield,” Ryan said with a laugh.

Justin, a infielder and pitcher, and Ryan, a center fielder and pitcher, are hoping to help the Vikings make another postseason run as Francis Howell enters district play this week with a record of 22-11.

“We’ve lost some games we should have won,” Ryan said. “But we’ve been swinging the bat pretty well. When we’re all playing the best we can play, I think we’re a pretty good team.”

Regardless of whether the season ends with a state championship or in the final four or not, Tony knows the last seven years have been an unforgettable experience.

“It’s been great,” Tony said. “Everybody’s been telling me I’m going to retire after the twins graduate. When this season is over and Justin and Ryan are done, it’ll be sad. I just try and cherish every moment I have.”

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