01/15/12 — Whitfield gets an unexpected surprise that draws a standing ovation

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Whitfield gets an unexpected surprise that draws a standing ovation

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 15, 2012 1:52 AM

Dressed in his trademark colorful sweater that he keeps just for this occasion, George Whitfield had the tables turned on him before he unveiled the 40th class of inductees into his Hall of Fame on Friday evening.

Friends and family surprised the coach, a long-time country music fan, with a seven-day trip on the Opry Cruise Line, a credit card to cover the expense and a scrapbook of letters from former inductees.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King also presented Whitfield with a letter of appreciation thanking him for his efforts in the community.

Humbled by the attention, the silver-haired Whitfield smiled and fought back tears as a crowd of 400-plus rewarded him with a well-deserved standing ovation.

"We just want you to know how special George is ... it's amazing," said Billy Godwin, head baseball coach at East Carolina.

But this night wasn't all about Whitfield. It was about honoring those who have succeeded in the past and present ... the folks who have provided the building blocks for what we enjoy in our every day life today. Their accomplishments tell their respective stories, and Whitfield relayed those tales as he inducted 26 new members into his Hall of Fame.

Whitfield said on the eve of the annual ceremony that this class will 'rival any of the others' enshrined into the Hall.

He was right.

Athletes, writers, well-known broadcasters, former college coaches, military heroes and presidents of respected national companies walked to the front of the stage and stood silently as Whitfield introduced them to the crowd and read the inscription on their plaque. Flashes from cameras illuminated the auditorium, and friends and family bestowed each inductee with applause and cheers in appreciation of their respective feats.

Before the actual induction took place, he acknowledged three current Hall members who have retired or will retire this year -- Goldsboro's Dick Baddour, who retired as athletics director at the University of North Carolina; Bernie Capps, long-time trainer at Rocky Mount Senior High School and Mark Johnson, who enjoyed successful tenures as head baseball coach at Texas A&M and Sam Houston State.

Johnson delivered the kick-off speech for Whitfield's annual baseball clinic Saturday morning.

Whitfield presented the inaugural Clyde King Award to Seth Maness (East Carolina grad) and Carter Capps, who is the highest draft pick in Mount Olive College baseball history. King, a long-time friend of Whitfield's who selflessly gave his time and energy to baseball, passed away in 2010.

UNC head baseball coach Mike Fox and MOC head baseball coach Carl Lancaster received the Walter Rabb Award, which goes to the top collegiate coach in North Carolina.

Whitfield doled out awards to baseball teams from UNC Wilmington (national JUCO champs in 1961 and 1963), N.C. Wesleyan (NCAA Division III champs in 1989 and 1999) and Mount Olive College (2008 NCAA Division II champion).

He also recognized several high school athletes for winning state championships in 2011 -- Connor Jones (cross country) and Anthony Mulligan (track and field) from Wayne Christian; C.B. Aycock's duo of Tara Simmons (golf) and Devin Hall (diving); Wayne Country Day's tennis trio of Sarah Best, Katherine Roethling and Gianna Democko and players from Parrott Academy, which dominated the NCISAA 2-A tennis scene.