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Vance Honeycutt breaks home run record in UNC baseball's series sweep over Louisville

20240217_Skvoretz_UNC-Baseball-Wagner-1049.jpg
UNC redshirt sophomore outfielder Casey Cook (16), junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7), and senior infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) celebrate their home runs during the men’s baseball game against Wagner at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. UNC won 16-5.

After Friday night’s game against Louisville, Vance Honeycutt entered the Diamond Heels’ locker room and a gift awaited him. 

The junior center fielder was given a baseball. 

While it looked like any typical one with its white color, red seam and Rawlings branding, it symbolized much more. The ball marked a change for the entire North Carolina program and highlighted a milestone for Honeycutt. 

Following 37 years atop an untouched leaderboard, former UNC player Devy Bell's home run record was finally overthrown. Honeycutt took his place after hitting that same soon-to-be-gifted ball 376 feet into left field. 

“The kid’s phenomenal,” head coach Scott Forbes said. “We just celebrated that he broke the record and gave him the ball that he broke the record with.” 

During the No. 7 Diamond Heels’ last home series of the regular season against Louisville, Honeycutt set North Carolina’s new home run record following his 58th career bomb in the bottom of the third inning. The Tar Heels not only swept Louisville, but this season's ACC home run leader also helped push his team to the regular season ACC Coastal Division title. 

But Honeycutt rarely thought about his proximity to breaking the record in the games leading up to Friday. He didn’t even think about it when he met Bell — the previous home run record holder — during UNC’s series against Virginia Tech in late April

After the 1984 team was honored in the second game of the series, Bell approached the potential record breaker. 

“[Bell] told me that he was happy for me, excited for me and he hoped I did it,” Honeycutt said. 

Still, even with encouragement from the then-leader, the center fielder continued to play without the record in mind. He didn’t count down. He doesn’t even remember when he became aware he was within reach. 

So, as Honeycutt stepped up to the plate to lead off for the Tar Heels, the at-bat was mechanical. On a 2-2 count, the junior ripped a fastball to right field. He jogged around the bases and shared his signature revolving clap celebration with Forbes. 

Record tied. Fifty-seven career home runs in the books. 

And when the third inning rolled around, Honeycutt stepped to the plate again with the same mindset. Only this time, he connected on the second pitch

Just like that, North Carolina crowned a new king. 

As the crowd rose and cheered, Honeycutt didn’t even crack a smile running around the bases. According to Forbes, this is normal. The young star boasts an atypical kind of humility

“He’s got all the right attributes that you hope your best player has and that makes us better,” Forbes said. “It makes my job easier.” 

While Honeycutt rarely revels in his own achievements, senior designated hitter Alberto Osuna finds it easy to brag about his teammate. 

To Osuna, it’s hard to even put into words. Honeycutt is just unbelievable and unexplainable. His performances are “jaw-dropping.”

“That’s the best player I think I’ll ever see,” Osuna said. “Just being in the same batting practice group as him all three years and just being in the same life as him is a true honor to me. I don’t think I could ever ask for anything else.” 

Although he isn’t impressed with his titles, Honeycutt enjoys celebrating them with his teammates. In those moments, he’s finally able to reflect. 

He said he remembers being a kid and dreaming of donning Carolina Blue. He also remembers wanting to make an impact on the same program his father played for 30 years before he did. 

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“From a little kid who always wanted to come here, get opportunities to play and then accomplish some things along the way, it was really cool [and] really special,” Honeycutt said.

And with the regular season drawing to a close, Honeycutt’s time at North Carolina is coming to an end as well. As a projected first-round draft pick, the star will likely leave UNC after the season concludes. 

Still, according to Forbes, he doesn’t talk about his success and the future he will have because of it. He hasn’t met with any Major League Baseball teams. In Forbes’ words, Honeycutt wants to focus on simply “having a blast with his boys.” 

Although his celebration was reserved as he rounded the bases, the center fielder’s time in the locker room told a different story. After receiving his home run ball, Honeycutt finally celebrated with the team that has made his college career worthwhile.

“It was special,” Honeycutt said. “I think it was one of those things [where] all the guys are around and that’s kind of what you do it for.”

Matthew Maynard contributed reporting to this story. 

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