Neosho, MO – Crowder College Foundation hosted its annual scholarship banquet Monday, September 23 at Sneller Gymnasium on the Neosho campus. More than 700 donors, scholarship recipients, and guests attended the banquet, sponsored in part by Southwest Missouri Bank. During the event, 1991 Crowder College graduate Joe Lewis received the prestigious Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Lewis spent two years as a shortstop for the Roughriders under former Head Coach Gary Roark earning a career batting average of .315 with 67 runs and 41 stolen bases. After Crowder, he transferred to Arkansas State where he set the school record for double plays turned. His senior year, he moved on to Bellevue (Nebraska) College and served as starting shortstop for the NAIA powerhouse. At Bellevue, he completed his bachelor of science in physical education with a minor in biology in 1993.
Following his college career, Lewis served as both shortstop and pitcher at the professional level for minor league teams in Canada, Italy, and Holland and with numerous independent teams across the United States. In 2000, an opportunity with ESPN took him to Bristol, Connecticut. As a marketing representative for the sports media conglomerate, Lewis’s responsibilities focused on national trade shows and sporting events including operations management of ESPN the Truck, which made Super Bowl and World Series appearances.
Lewis’s passion for baseball never waned. While working for ESPN, he began developing prototypes for a revolutionary pitching cage that would use lifelike mannequins and deliver a realistic experience for users. Two years later, he left ESPN for a new challenge as an account executive for the popular lifestyle network HGTV. Meanwhile, he continued making progress perfecting his cage as a training tool for both professional baseball players and everyday sports enthusiasts. The popularity and enthusiasm for his pitching cage grew quickly and MoJo Sports was born in 2004. Today, MoJo Pitching cage is installed in 21 baseball stadiums across the U.S., including the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and Texas Rangers. The pitching cage was featured in The Million Dollar Arm, A Walt Disney motion picture released in 2014 grossing $39 million.
Lewis holds three patents as the inventor of the cage. Under MoJo Sports, he developed additional products including MoJo Penalty Kick, Passing Challenge, Block-a-Shot, and Pinch Hitter, all popular attractions at state and county fairs from coast to coast.
The time he spent at Crowder College prepared Lewis for the success he enjoys today. “For me, Crowder really instilled the values that make a person successful in life—no matter what the circumstances around you,” said Lewis. “Those values include perseverance, character, passion, and fortitude. It’s almost 30 years later and I still live by the values Coach Roark taught us on the field—do your best, do the right thing, and treat others the way you want to be treated.”
“I can think of no better representative for this award than Joe Lewis,” remarked Roark. “He was a fierce, tenacious competitor. The tougher the situation, the better player he became. I put him in the nine-hole (batting last), which would frustrate most batters. But Joe was stubborn and highly motivated, so he thrived in that position always playing beyond his talent. He played fearlessly on the field and in life.”
Lewis resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with his wife, Vanesa, and son, Felix.