Larry Sasser will leave coaching legacy at Norwayne Middle School
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 15, 2010 11:07 PM
Wearing his dusty baseball cap with the baby blue "N" in the middle, Norwayne Middle School head baseball coach Larry Sasser pulled a pencil from the scorebook.
He grabbed a blank lineup card and began thinking about the hitters, and pitching rotation in the regular-season finale against Eastern Wayne.
But this time it was different. A normal routine that encompassed many March, April and May afternoons for 18 years was about to come to an end in a couple of hours.
This was Sasser's last game in the Cobras' dugout.
"I had thought about it quite a bit for the last two or three weeks," said Sasser, his trademark blue whistle dangling around his neck. "When we had our last home game on the Monday before with Rosewood, that was emotional. With this being the last one, I tried to face it just like any other game and I think I did."
Until the final out.
The Cobras completed a perfect 14-0 campaign with a 12-6 victory over the Warriors. Norwayne clinched its fourth consecutive Wayne County Middle School Athletic Conference Division I championship, and the final of 13 titles the program won during Sasser's tenure.
The teams lined up, exchanged high-fives and congratulated each other on a "good game." Sasser took an extra minute to talk with the Eastern Wayne coaches. He turned and walked toward his team.
"When it was finally over, that's when it hit me," said Sasser. "When I had the last talk with the boys and knew that was going to be the last time I would be on the field, that was very emotional."
The season-ending contest capped a stellar career for Sasser, who will officially retire the last day of school. The Nahunta native and Charles B. Aycock alum collected 23 WCMSAC Division I championships and compiled 457 victories while coaching four sports -- football, volleyball, boys' basketball and baseball -- at various times.
"I like the competition and I grew up in a family of ballplayers," said Sasser. "I love any kind of sport and this was my way to stay in it for all these years, whether coaching or getting out there and practicing with the teams."
Sasser has taught on the middle school level for roughly 95 percent of his career. His stops include Bennettville (S.C.), Glendale Chapel Elementary in Johnston County, Mount Olive Junior High, Southern Wayne HS and Norwayne Middle School.
He stayed with the middle school profession due to a number of reasons, but mainly because he got home at a decent hour and he could teach/coach younger kids.
"At this age, they're very impressionable," said Sasser. "They're eager to learn, don't know it all and are willing to listen. It's a hard age.
"They're trying to grow up and it's good to be part of that growing up process. Hopefully, I've steered them in the right direction."
Sasser's goals are the same in the classroom and in athletics -- work hard, keep a good attitude, learn the fundamentals, have fun and improve day by day.
He considers it a "high priority" each day to make sure the student-athletes improve either a particular day in practice, during the season or on what they wish to achieve in the future. Sasser isn't sure how many students he's taught and/or coached. But, more often than not, a few come back each year to say "hi" and talk about their days in a Cobra uniform.
That's the reward Sasser cherishes the most about his job. It's not about determining who to keep or cut when he decides on a team each season, which is undoubtedly a challenge at the 1,200-student school.
"There have been a lot of young, good men and women that I've been associated with," said Sasser. "Hopefully, I was a small part of helping them develop as a student-athlete or becoming a better person in general."
Sasser hasn't thought too much about his future. He's an avid golfer and tennis player, and loves to garden. He knows he won't be happy sitting at home and has thought about doing some volunteer work.
A successor hasn't been named to fill Sasser's shoes in either one or all the sports he's coached. Sasser does hope the relationship he's developed with his fellow coaches will continue.
"We work well together, help each other out and that's been a big plus, too," said Sasser. "We've got a good working atmosphere here. I have really enjoyed working in the coaching field, being with the boys and girls. It's been like a dream job. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do. To me, it's not really like a job, but just going out there and having fun every day."