05/23/12 — Stevens: May, Wise inspired respective teammates entire baseball season

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Stevens: May, Wise inspired respective teammates entire baseball season

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 23, 2012 1:48 PM

We live in a world notorious for verbally placing the same importance on effort as we do on results.

Children are taught from an early age to "do their best" and to "not worry about whether they win or lose, it's how you play the game.". However, as we grow older, results -- and only results -- seem to matter in college, the workplace, financially and even in sports.

That is unless you're playing for something bigger.

This spring the baseball teams at Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne pursued the same goals as always -- the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and a state championship.

The Warriors were honoring senior Jake May, who was diagnosed with leukemia in January and is currently in remission.

The Saints were honoring the late Kevin Wise, a center fielder who had the flare for the dramatic. He passed away in his sleep on Feb. 18.

May and Wise epitomized what it means to earn your way.

A bullpen catcher as a freshman during the Warriors' run to the state finals in 2009, May gained valuable experience as he intently watched veterans around him. He eventually became the team's everyday catcher.

With a patch honoring May on their sleeves and their beloved catcher as a sign of inspiration in the dugout as often as possible, Eastern Wayne won their fourth ECC regular-season title in five seasons.

Despite the Warriors' season coming to an early end in the second round of the state playoffs, Eastern Wayne went 16-7 and displayed the same type of fight on the diamond that May has been demonstrating in his own battle for months.

"Jake May, we talk about this is a game of life and you can never quit, and this is a prime example," Warriors' head coach Jabo Fulghum said. "He's in it for the long haul, but he has definitely been a motivational factor for our kids. Jake has been a very big part of us this year and in years past. Jake is going to be sorely missed."

With a work ethic ingrained in him by his grandfather Charlie Swinson, Wise was known for staying after practice to get in extra swings or to work on his defense. He never used the fact that he wore hearing aids as an excuse. Instead, in a sign of maturity, Wise found a way to read fly balls off the bat in order to get a better jump rather than relying on the sound.

The Saints (18-10) also honored Wise with a jersey patch and a plaque in their dugout further cementing the legacy of their teammate. Southern Wayne won the ECC tournament championship and reached the second round of the state playoffs.

Senior Jeremy Taylor's no-hitter in the Saints' first-round playoff win against Northern Nash was Taylor's personal tribute to the relentless dedication Wise poured into the program over the previous three years.

"Emotionally, we went some through things we never thought we would have to deal with this year," Southern Wayne head coach Trae McKee said. "I'm proud of the kids and how they dealt with the whole situation with Kevin. They tried to play for him. They never put their head down and said the season is done. I thought we made a good run and played for him."

Honoring a teammate isn't necessarily about trophies and deep playoff runs, it's about playing every game for those who can't, and approaching every out like it could be your last.