Wayne County Hot Stove League banquet honors players, coaches
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 20, 2009 1:47 PM
The guest list read like a "Who's Who" of Wayne County Baseball.
Everyone from former major league baseball player and manager Jerry Narron, to the 9-10-year-old Wayne County All-Stars packed the Eastern Carolina Athletic Park to recognize the best and brightest baseball talent in the area at the 3rd Annual Wayne County Hot Stove banquet.
Mount Olive College head coach Carl Lancaster kicked off the evening with a speech about winning, friendships and memories.
"I remember when I was a young coach, and getting to face some of the legends at this table," said Lancaster. "I learned a lot from men like Doyle and George Whitfield, Rabbit Fulghum and Rooster Narron."
Lancaster, who guided MOC to the Division II national baseball title, talked about what it takes to win championships and the mentality of players who reach the highest level.
"If there is one thing I can ask of all the coaches in attendance, it is teach the players that it is not OK to lose," said Lancaster. "Too often we get caught up telling kids that it's OK to strike out three times and miss four or five balls in the field. It takes hard work and toughness to be a good ballplayer and youngsters need to know that."
Flanked by several current and former Trojan standouts, Lancaster accepted a special award presented to the team for their World Series campaign last season.
The Wayne County 9U team received a special momento for winning the Southeast Regional last summer.
Eastern Wayne senior John Wooten received the Jerry Narron Award, which is presented to the area's top baseball player. Wooten, who has signed with East Carolina, is the reigning Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference player of the year.
Teammate Walker Gourley, who will join Wooten at ECU, was named the George Whitfield Award winner. The award is given to the player who is willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team and who is willing to put his teammates first. Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum won the Doyle Whitfield Award presented to the area's top coach.
North Lenoir hurler John Alphin claimed the Clyde King Award for the area's top pitcher. The News-Argus pitcher of the year finished 2008 with a 10-0 record and a minuscule 1.25 earned run average.
The final plaque of the evening was the John Thomas Award, which is presented to a volunteer who has helped improve the game of baseball through hard work. Former Babe Ruth league president and coach of multiple teams, Randy Pate garnered the accolade.
"It's truly an honor, and I certainly wasn't expecting this," said Pate. "I remember playing against teams coached by Carl Lancaster, and working alongside so many of these great baseball guys."
Pate recalled one special summer when he coached three Babe Ruth teams as well as a men's softball team.
"I wanted to leave coaching with a bang in 2006," said Pate. "It was hectic, but I coached three teams in different divisions of the Babe Ruth league. I loved it, and I learned a lot. It used to be when I was a kid that if a guy got cut he couldn't play anywhere, now we have created another pace for kids to play."
All proceeds from the banquet will be used to assist baseball in Wayne County.
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