George Whitfield Hall of Fame
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 14, 2010 1:46 PM
The names pop up at odd times.
So, George Whitfield finds a piece of paper and jots them down before he forgets. Sometimes he'll add a fact or two about the person, and finish his research later.
It's a daily practice for the sports sojourner, who can spin tales about anyone he's spoken with during his 70-plus years. Whitfield considers every relationship unique and does his best to make sure that he keeps contact with each person.
More often than not, many of those influential individuals end up inducted into the George Whitfield Hall of Fame. The prestigious fraternity represents a strong tradition of outstanding coaches, referees, players and administrators who have served their respective institutions at a high level -- not only in North Carolina, but nationwide.
And it's no surprise that his latest 19-member class comprises a "Who's Who" list that includes:
* Atlantic Coast Conference basketball pioneers Vic Bubas, Pete Brennan, Vic Molodet, Lennie Rosenbluth and Bucky Waters;
* Lindsey Linker, one of North Carolina's top high school tennis coaches;
* former Mount Olive College men's basketball coach Bill Clingan;
* and a couple of former players whom Whitfield groomed while living and coaching in Richmond County.
"We've picked up some really great guys and I think we are going to have a great time," said Whitfield. "We're going to have more than 340 people for supper Friday night. We're looking for a big weekend with the guys who are being inducted.
"They're all good people (and) we're really happy to get them."
The induction ceremony is Friday evening at the Goldsboro High auditorium. Whitfield plans to honor 10 members of the 1955 Wake Forest baseball team, which is the only ACC squad to ever capture the NCAA Division I College World Series. Expected to attend are captain/third baseman Tommy Cole, who resides in Goldsboro; Buck Fichter and Lee Abbott.
Whitfield played with the trio at Grainger High School in Kinston.
"Isn't that awesome that three players from Kinston played in Omaha?" said Whitfield.
About 30 athletes from Goldsboro High athletic teams in 1976-77 will be recognized by Whitfield. The Cougar football team went undefeated in regular-season play, the wrestling team finished 15-0, the boys' basketball squad advanced deep into the playoffs and the baseball team suffered just three losses.
"That was the best athletic year in the history of Goldsboro High," said Whitfield.
Whitfield's 38th annual baseball clinic officially kicks off Saturday at 9:20 a.m. with guest speaker Jeff Bardel, who is a Guinness Book of World Records holder and motivational speaker. At 18, Bardel lost his right arm in an industrial accident while working at a glass company in Laurinburg. He surrendered his life to God at 21.
In 2006, Bardel broke the world record for the longest drive of a golf ball with one arm. With humor, he uses that accomplishment and his unforgettable life story to draw his audience to Jesus, and to encourage them to do all God has called them to do.
"I think a lot of the young men and dads who are coming to the clinic would like to hear about someone who overcame adversity," said Whitfield. "You're going to have adversity in your life and it's important that you never quit. He certainly typifies a guy who doesn't give up."
Mark Dreibelbis, associate executive director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, makes his annual appearance to explain and answer questions about rule changes for the 2010 season.
More than 40 coaches are expected to speak on a variety of topics at this year's clinic. The group will discuss what college coaches seek in today's athlete, practice organization for coaches, indoor-outdoor drills for players, pitching, catching, infield play, outfield play, base running and hitting.
"We've got a lot going on," said Whitfield.
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