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His baseball talents in high school drew the interest of larger schools, but Tolleson, 58, chose the Catamounts for a reason.
"Western was the only school that would give me the opportunity to play two sports with Adidas Los Angeles Mesh Trainers no strings attached," said Tolleson, who still makes his home in Spartanburg with his wife Kimberly and is semiretired.
Playing for Waters and baseball coach Bill Hayward turned out to be exactly what Tolleson was looking for in his college experience.
White said Tolleson has always been appreciative of the people and school that gave him a chance to play two sports 30 years ago.
White ranks Tolleson as the school's second best multisport athlete.
"Wayne was a very special student athlete. As a (football player) in '77, he played quarterback on several downs and made some key kicks as our placekicker, in addition to leading the nation in receptions," said White.
Tolleson's highlight now is watching his son have the kind of career he enjoyed.
"Coach Waters put it into my scholarship (that he be allowed to play football and baseball), and there was never an issue."
He was named the SoCon's Athlete of the Year in '78, the first WCU athlete to receive the award. He was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.
"Western Carolina was a perfect fit for me," he said.
"In my mind, he was the best shortstop in the history of our program as he was an extremely tough out and always found a way to get on base, steal bases and was an almost flawless fielder."
A four year starter at shortstop for the Catamounts, Tolleson was a two time all Southern Conference selection and the league's player of the Los Angeles Adidas Shoes
And Wayne's son Steven is a major league infielder, playing with the Toronto Blue Jays after stints with the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox.
Obviously, the Tollesons, from Spartanburg, South Carolina, have a skill for the game, but Wayne's standout career in Cullowhee (1974 78) wasn't limited to the diamond.
Catching up with
"God richly blessed my career in terms of longevity, and getting a chance to play every day as a New Adidas Neo Cloudfoam Thunder
"The only (one) better in WCU history was Jerry Gaines, who was a football, baseball and track and field All America selection," he said.
York Yankee was a highlight of my career," he said.
He began is pro career in Asheville, hitting .269 in 70 games for the Tourists and reached the major leagues with the Texas Rangers in 1981.
"(The) New England (Patriots) asked me to (try out), and it was nice to think about a NFL career, but with my body type (5 9, 160) baseball was going to be my sport as a professional," Tolleson said.
"It's been an absolute thrill to watch Steve grow as a young man, mature as a baseball player and see him have the chance to play baseball at that level," said Tolleson, who retired from a successful corporate career with Centerplate, a food vending company, and now gives clinics and baseball lessons for youngsters.
He also played for the White Sox and New York Yankees in a 10 year career, hitting .241 with 108 stolen bases.
year in '78.
And on the football field, he was also a four year player, leading the nation in receiving (73 catches) his senior season, a key component of coach Bob Waters' wide open offense.
Steve White was WCU's sports information director during Tolleson's college career and now serves as the school's Los Angeles Adidas Womens Shoes
"Football wise, they had a tradition of smaller wide receivers and a great passing game. Coach Haywood had a professional background and was a tremendous coach, so looking back I couldn't have made a better choice about college."
He also serves as a consultant for Upward Sports, which is ready to open a 120,000 square foot multipurpose sports facility in Spartanburg.
"Coach Waters and coach Haywood both loved him," White said. "He has been a substantial donor and supporter to the university, and has never forgotten his WCU career and what it did for him."
The baseball gene is very strong in the Tolleson family, and it appears to be progressive.
Jim Tolleson, father of former Western Carolina two sport star Wayne Tolleson, played seven years in the minor leagues. His brother Michael also had a year of pro baseball.
Once Tolleson completed his record setting college career, making his next choice was easy.
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