So much for a lazy summer.
While the heat blistered Music City, several Nashvillians left their mark on the national — and, in some cases, global — sports scene.
It started in May with the resurgence of Brian Baker in tennis. The valedictorian of Hillwood High’s 2003 class turned down Division I offers to go pro and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world junior rankings. Then his body began to break down, requiring five surgeries in three years. He enrolled at Belmont and became an assistant tennis coach for the Bruins.
But his playing days weren’t over. The 27-year-old worked his way back onto the professional circuit and captured a wild card berth for the French Open. After reaching his first ATP final in a prelude tournament, he exited in the second round of the French Open.
His 15 minutes weren’t up. He made an unbelievable run through Wimbledon and blasted into the fourth round. He ranked as high as 52nd in the world and is training in Florida for another year on the ATP tour.
Often staking its claim as a baseball-rich city, Nashville products backed it up.
On the highest level, David Price and R.A. Dickey threw together unforgettable seasons. Price, a Murfreesboro native and the former No. 1 pick out of Vanderbilt, won 20 games and collected more than 200 strikeouts for the second straight season. The left-handed ace of the Tampa Bay Rays narrowly edged reigning champ Justin Verlander for his first Cy Young Award.
An hour later, Dickey snagged the N.L. Cy Young Award completing a rare — and perhaps the first — city sweep of baseball’s top pitching honor. It was an unimaginable year for Dickey, who was a relatively unknown nine months ago.
Dickey, a graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy and former University of Tennessee standout, also won 20 games for the first time in his career and collected 230 strikeouts for the New York Mets. By mastering the knuckleball, the 38-year-old instantly rose to stardom after spending much of his career bouncing around. But the journeyman isn’t done moving. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays two weeks ago, marking his fifth team in seven years. Dickey began the offseason as a media darling, as well, promoting his book “Wherever I Wind Up” and playing a big part in the documentary “Knuckleball.”
Perhaps the only thing that could upstage them was a local group of 12- and 13-year-old baseball players who stole the state’s attention for a few short weeks. In August, the Goodlettsville Little League team, in just its second year, became the first Tennessee team since 1987 to reach the Little League World Series.
Not only did they reach the big stage, they captivated a national audience. Brock Myers and Lorenzo Butler became semi-famous as Goodlettsville kept winning in dramatic fashion and captured the U.S. championship before falling to Japan in the world championship.
When they returned home the craziness didn’t end. Nashville’s newest boys of summer have been honored by the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Sounds and many area college football and basketball teams. The team even served as the grand marshal for the Nashville Christmas Parade.
To end the whirlwind summer, a golfer who spent his youth on Nashville’s municipal courses received a hefty paycheck.
It would have been a good year for Brandt Snedeker if it had ended after his second PGA Tour win and tying Tiger Woods for third at the British Open. But the MBA and Vanderbilt graduate had more golf to play — and money to win.
For winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September he took home a $1.44 million purse. But he also received an extra $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup title — the PGA Tour’s season-long championship that concluded with four weeks of playoffs.
Just a week later, he was in Chicago representing his country in the Ryder Cup.
Not a bad summer for Nashville.