01/12/07 — George Whitfield Baseball Clinic: Two-day affair continues to grow

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George Whitfield Baseball Clinic: Two-day affair continues to grow

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 12, 2007 2:22 PM

Ask George Whitfield about his baseball clinic and you better have some time on your hands.

The Goldsboro native can spin a tale about every coach he's invited to his two-day clinic and every inductee placed into his Hall of Fame. Whitfield doesn't forget a face, and he certainly doesn't forget people who have made significant contributions to baseball or another sport within their community.

Whitfield vividly recalls his inaugural clinic conducted 35 years ago at Monroe Avenue School in Rockingham. Five guests, including Tom Butters from Duke and Goldsboro native Clyde King, highlighted his clinic. More than 50 players in his baseball program attended, also, because Whitfield required they'd be there.

"It's gotten to a be lot of fun since then," said Whitfield.

And the clinic has grown, too.

Since its grassroots beginning in the early 70s, Whitfield's clinic has become a stopping point for some of the nation's top baseball brethren and community leaders. And this year's clinic is no different.

Whitfield plans to induct 11 members into his Hall of Fame that include a four-star general, two Wayne County natives and a world-record holder in water skiing -- just to name a few. However, honoring those people for their devotion and service isn't the only purpose of Whitfield's clinic.

More than 400 boys will be on hand Saturday to learn the basic fundamentals on America's number one pastime.

"That's what it's all about, anyway," said Whitfield. "But the best thing, to me, is that we've found a way to get the boys' dads involved who work with them in their backyards when they are not practicing with their team."

Dads attend Whitfield's clinic free of charge and some learn just as much as their sons.

Whitfield reminisced about a letter he received from a father after one of Whitfield's clinic. Each attended different sessions during the day-long affair and shared with each other what they had learned on the way home.

"That made me feel good because I knew I was doing the right thing," said Whitfield.

King agreed that Whitfield's clinic is more than just fine-tuning skills. The sport teaches teamwork, discipline and is the perfect lab for life after baseball.

"You learn more than just baseball. You learn about life as well," said King, who is recovering from back surgery. "They talk about values, the importance of how to win (with humility) and how to lose (with dignity), teamwork ... all those things that help shape the person you become.

"I've been to clinics all over the world and this is by far the best clinic I've ever been involved in. George runs it so well. It's just an outstanding thing he does."

Forty clinicians will discuss a variety of topics that include what college coaches seek in today's players; helping a coach organize his practices; indoor and outdoor drills to improve a player's fundamentals; pitching; catching; infield and outfield play; hitting and base running.

Representatives from Major League franchises will be on hand along with several notable college coaches -- Billy Godwin (East Carolina), Charlie Long (N.C. Wesleyan), Carl Lancaster (Mount Olive), Tom Austin (Methodist) and Stony Wine (Lenoir Community College). Long led NCWC to the NCAA Division III College World Series a year ago and Lancaster guided Mount Olive to an appearance in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional. Lancaster's team is ranked No. 20 in a preseason poll conducted by Baseball America.

"This gives me a chance to get together with high school and college coaches, and professional people that I've been fortunate to be involved with over the past 47 years, but don't get to see often," said Whitfield. "These guys do what they do because they love kids and they love the game.

"I think that's just wonderful."

Whitfield's clinic begins today with a supper and a ceremony for the 2007 class of inductees. Each inductee receives a plaque recognizing their achievements. Here is the list and a brief synopsis:

* General Binford Peay III -- A four-star general, Peay is the 14th Superintendent in the history of the Virginia Military Institute. He's received numerous medals, including the purple heart, and was quarterback for VMI's football team from 1958-61. General Peay is the second four-star general to be inducted by Whitfield. Ronald Griffith, US Army retired, was inducted in 2001.

* Joe Carbone -- Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1970, Carbone served as captain for Ohio University, which participated in the 1970 College World Series. Carbone is the all-time career wins leader (533) for any sport at Ohio University.

* Jimmy Tillman -- A Southern Wayne graduate, Tillman played on the 1968 team for legendary coach Norman Clark. Tillman recently retired as principal from Wilson Fike and is the all-time winningest football coach in SouthWest Edgecombe history.

* Fred Jordan -- The Citadel head baseball coach, Jordan has guided his teams to 10 different championship titles and 500-plus wins during his 15-year tenure.

* Don Stallings -- A former player with the Washington Redskins.

* Jerry Woodside -- A graduate of East Carolina, Woodside was selected to try out for the 1964 Olympic basketball team. An outstanding basketball coach, Woodside collected 560 wins and 21 conference titles during stints at Burlington Williams, Burlington Cummings and J.H. Rose. He is currently the head basketball coach at South Central.

* Jimmy Grimsley -- A longtime figurehead associated with ECU athletics, Grimsley played sports at Stantonsburg High and Saratoga Central. Grimsley also has a baseball tournament -- the Jimmie R. Grimsley Hot Stove League Invitational -- named in his honor.

* Bob Harris -- An Albemarle High School graduate, Harris is best known as the voice of the Duke Blue Devils. He is a two-time North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year and a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

* Kristi Overton -- Retired from skiing and now a well-known motivational speaker, Overton is a former Pam American gold medalist and holder of numerous national and world records. Overton is an eight-time U.S. Masters champion and has a lake named after her in Pitt County, which is the site of a prestigious cross-country invitational during the fall.

* Lou Pucillo -- Pucillo is best-known as a point guard who many said could not succeed at the collegiate level. The late Everett Case recruited Pucillo and groomed the small, but talented player into an All-American by the time he graduated.

* Mike Myrick -- A Goldsboro native, Myrick was a three-sport letterman in football and basketball. He later earned three letters at East Carolina and eventually spent time in the Air Force. Myrick and Pucillo are golfing partners.

Whitfield started the Hall of Fame in the mid-1980s and to this day remains the lone person to select inductees.

"These are people whom I've known in sports who are good people ... good citizens who have contributed to our society and country in some way," said Whitfield. "Not one time have I been disappointed. They are all first-class people."