02/03/10 — Future, past stars come out

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Future, past stars come out

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 3, 2010 1:46 PM

Stories were swapped.

Memories were shared.

And hardware was handed out.

The fourth annual Wayne County Hot Stove banquet played to a crowd of approximately 130 people at Lane Tree Golf Club on Tuesday night and all in attendance left with a new diamond gem or two.

Featured speakers included former major league player and manager Jerry Narron and three young men still learning the ropes of the professional game. Dustin Sasser of the Chicago Cubs, Sam Narron of the Detroit Tigers and Walker Gourley of the Pittsburgh Pirates each took a turn at the podium and shared their wisdom with a host of youth league players in the audience.

Narron began the festivities with a comical story about his experience in the Dominican Republic during winter league and Sasser followed with the retelling of his experience as a player under MLB Hall of Fame member Ryne Sandberg.

Gourley, the youngest of the trio, finished the addresses with a simple reminder to all the players in Wayne County.

"I want you to turn around and thank your parents," said Gourley. "They are not only the enablers of your baseball career, but the enablers of your entire life."

Banquet organizer Roger May presented the 2009 Eastern Wayne baseball team a special recognition plaque that honored the Warriors' runners-up finish in the 2009 N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A championship series. Former Warrior infielder and current East Carolina freshman John Wooten received the Jerry Narron Award as the best high school player of the year.

Teammate Josh Frederick claimed the Clyde King Award as the pitcher of the year. Head coach Jabo Fulghum earned the Doyle Whitfield Award as the coach of the year.

George Whitfield presented his annual award to Charles B. Aycock standout Will Edgerton for his leadership, dedication and willingness to always put his team first. Edgerton, now playing at UNC-Wilmington, could not be at the banquet to accept, but his father gladly toted the trophy.

Local baseball volunteer Heath Smitherman took home the John Thomas Award for his contributions to several youth leagues.

Sonny Wooten followed the award ceremony with an announcement that many high school players had been waiting -- and hoping to hear. Wayne County will play Senior American Legion baseball next summer.

"I know there have been a lot of rumors going around about the legion program," said Wooten. "But I want to clarify that we will have a senior legion team and that Mount Olive College assistant coach Rob Watt will take over as the legion coach."

Jerry Narron provided the closing remarks.

"To all the parents out there, please let the coaches coach," said Narron. "Wayne County has some great high school coaches and they will do what is best for the team.

"To all the players, no matter what level, play your hardest every day and make it a point to improve every day. If you do that and you always put your team first, then you will be successful."

All of the money raised at the banquet goes to promoting and supporting youth baseball in Wayne County.