When talking to George Whitfield about his annual baseball clinic, you should sit down, relax and get ready to hear some stories.
The Goldsboro native can tell you about every single coach he has invited to his clinic and every inductee he placed into his annual Hall of Fame. Whitfield never forgets a face, and he also never forgets people who have made contributions to baseball or their community.
Whitfield vividly recalls his inaugural clinic conducted 47 years ago when he was the head baseball coach at Hamlet High School. Tom Butters from Duke, Goldsboro native Clyde King and Walter Rabb from UNC, highlighted his clinic. Fifty-eight players in his baseball program attended the clinic because Whitfield told them to attend.
“At times, we’ve had it a high four or five hundred,” said Whitfield. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s an awful lot of work.”
Since Whitfield started the clinic in 1972, it has become a stopping point for some of North Carolina’s top baseball coaches and community leaders. And this year’s clinic is no different.
Whitfield plans to induct over 20 people into his Hall of Fame that includes a four-star general, Wayne County natives and national championship winners. However, honoring those people for their devotion and service to their community isn’t the only purpose of Whitfield’s clinic.
A couple hundred boys will be on hand Saturday to learn the basic fundamentals of baseball.
“I want them to learn the basics of baseball and some things they may not know,” said Whitfield. “Every time I have ever been to a clinic in my entire life, you always pick up something that some other coach does or says that will help your program, so it’s the same thing with kids, they can pick up some fundamentals from these people that will help them be better players.
“I’ve always had a doctor come to talk to them about injuries as well.”
Dads are encouraged to attend Whitfield’s clinic because it’s free of charge, but they have to pay $8 for lunch.
Whitfield has received multiple letters from dads who told them his clinic was the greatest experience they had with their kids.
“It’s been over 20 years since I thought I should let the dads come because the dads work with their kids,” said Whitfield. “Seeing the dads’ letters is probably what makes me want to keep on doing it.”
Whitfield’s clinic is more than just learning how to play baseball. Baseball teaches players discipline and teamwork, both skills are necessary for life post baseball.
“This is something I believe in,” said Whitfield. “I love baseball and want all the kids to get the opportunity to hear good people talk about it and demonstrate how to be a good player.”
Over 20 clinicians will discuss a variety of baseball related topics, and the kids will participate in indoor and outdoor drills to improve their pitching, catching, infield and outfield skills. There will also be hitting and base running drills.
Representatives from Major League franchises will be there, as well as several notable college coaches — Rob Watt (Mount Olive), Greg Clifton (N.C. Wesleyan), Spencer Martin (Methodist), Jim Gantt (Catawba), Tripp Faulk (Oakland Athletics), Paul Faulk (Washington Nationals) and former MLB player Tommy Smith (Cleveland Indians).
“You get to see a lot of people that you’ve known for a long time and they get to comeback.” said Whitfield.
Whitfield’s clinic begins today with a dinner and a ceremony for the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees. Each inductee receives a plaque recognizing all of his and her achievements going back to high school.
This year’s class includes.
• Jennie Kennel Adams — A former head coach at Sanderson High School for tennis, volleyball, softball and gymnastics. Pamlico County Teacher of the Year in 1992 and North Carolina Charter Teacher of the Year in 2003. Inducted into the Sanderson High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
• Donald E. Andrews — A two-time North Carolina State Superintendent of the Year, Andrews is four-time Conference Coach of the Year. Andrews was teacher for over 20 years, who coached baseball, basketball, football and tennis. Andrews was also a recipient of the Sir Knight Award for overall academic and athletic service.
• Garrett Blackwelder — Attended Southern Wayne from 1992-1996. In his junior year, led the state of North Carolina in scoring at 27 points per game, and set a school record with 42 points in a game. As a senior, he led Southern Wayne to its second straight Mid 4-A Conference Championship and averaged 23 points per game. He attended East Carolina University from 1996-2000 and after graduating, founded software companies Grover Gaming and Banilla Gaming.
• Jim Brett — Coached football and track for 38 years at four different NCHSAA schools (Tarboro, West Brunswick, West Carteret and Northern Nash). Won the 3-A state football championship at Tarboro in 1984. Won back-to-back state football championships at West Brunswick in 1992-1993. Brett was inducted into the NCHSAA Hall of Fame in 2018.
• Bill Bryan — Is the Executive Chairman of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co., he started at the company in 1985 and served as president from 1990-2015. Bryan has been the director of the Southern Bank & Trust Company since 1993. He is also the director of the Tuscarora Council, Boy Scouts of America.
• Bill Cain — Cain lettered in football and baseball at Rockingham High School, after graduating he attended East Carolina University where played football and ran track. Served as head ECU golf and tennis coach. Cain established the ECU Athletic Hall of Fame. He served on the Board of Trustees at Pitt Community College where he helped establish the baseball program.
• Dick Cooke — Currently the Associate Athletics Director at Davidson College. During his tenure as Davidson’s head baseball coach, the Wildcats won their first league title and set the record for wins in a season (35). Cooke was named coach of the year times, and received the Tom Walter inspiration award in 2013.
• Mac Cumbo — A 1970 graduate of West Carolina University, Cumbo served on the NCHSAA Board of Directors from 1998-2000. Cumbo won the NCHSAA Spirit Award in 1994 and the NCHSAA Award of Merit in 1995. In 2015 Cumbo was inducted into the NCHSAA Hall of Fame.
• Ivan D. Daniels — A Pikeville resident who is currently a Conference USA football official, Daniels previously served as back judge in NFL Europa and the United Football League. In his career, Daniels has officiated over 200 collegiate football games, and officiated over 1,200 high school, junior college and college games.
• Cissy Bristol Dyer — A member of the Andrews High School 1977 undefeated state championship team, and she was selected as the MVP of the state championship game. Dyer was selected as the Western North Carolina Female Athlete of the Year in 1976 and 1977. She attended Clemson where she was four-year letterman, a member of the 1,000 points club and the MVP of the Tiger Invitational in 1978. Dyer would go on to become the head coach of Murphy High School girls’ basketball team where she compiled a 354-212 record, won two state championships, five Smoky Mount Coach of the year awards. As the Murphy High School softball coach, she won two State Champions and was named Smoky Mount Coach of the Year nine times.
• Roland A. Chip Gill — Attended Southern Durham High School where he a Letterman in football, basketball, and track. At Elon College Gill was a four-year football Letterman and a two-year track Letterman. From 1985-1994 he was Southern Durham’s head football coach where the led Southern Durham to four conference championships and seven playoff appearances. In 2001 Gill was inducted to Southern High School’s Hall of Fame. In 2014 Gill was selected as on the “Top 100 Athletic Directors in the 100-year History of NCHSAA.”
• Jeff Gravley — A seven-time regional Emmy winner Gravley was born and raised in Oxford. He is member of the Webb Athletic Hall of Fame, a two-time North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year and is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner.
• Bob Guzzo — Head wrestling coach at N.C. State University from 1974-2004. Guzzo was selected as the NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year 1975, and he won ACC Coach of the Year six times. During his time as head coach the Wolfpack won 13 ACC wrestling championships and had 12 top 25 NCAA finishes. Guzzo was selected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006.
• Joey Hackett — A three sport Hall of Fame athlete at Southern Guilford High School, Hackett helped Elon College to the 1980 NAIA National Championship. He was named Elon’s most outstanding football player in 1980, and Elon’s most outstanding baseball player in 1980 and 1981. After college, he played for both the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos. While with Denver Hackett won the 1987 AFC Championship and played in Super Bowl XXI. In 1990 he was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame.
• Loren Hibbs — Since 1993, Hibbs has been the head basketball coach at UNC-Charlotte. He has won seven regular season championships and four tournament championships. He has appeared in five NCAA tournaments.
• William L. ‘Dutch’ Holland — Born in raised in Wayne County, Holland attended C.B. Aycock where lettered in football and baseball. Graduated from East Carolina University in 1975. Holland retired from the U.S. Air Force after 34 years of active duty service. He currently works for the Department of Defense as a Subject Master Expert-Senior Mentor for Command and Control.
• Charles E. Kernodle Jr. — Graduated from Elon College in 1938 and Duke Medical School in 1942. Served as WWII Army Captain-Chief of Surgeon’s-Battle of the Bulge soldiers. Founded the Kernodle Clinic in 1950, received the Order of the Leaf Pine Award in 2014, and the NC Football Coaches Association Lifetime Membership and Service Award in 2018.
• Phil Kirk — Serves as Chairman Emeritus of State Board of Education. Kirk was elected to the NC Senate at 25. He has served on more than 150 board and commissions, and has won the NC Award for public service and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from three governors.
• Charlie Long — The 1989 Male Athlete of the Year at Mount Olive College, Long was the baseball coach at NC Wesleyan for 21 years, and won the 1999 National Championship. He was the 1999 North Carolina, South Regional, and National Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the North Carolina Wesleyan Hall of Fame in 2016, and inducted into the University of Mount Olive Hall of Fame in 2018.
• Jamal Stephenson — Born and raised in Goldsboro, Stephenson attended Goldsboro High School from 1989-1993, where he was a three-sport athlete. In 1993 He was named first team All-Conference for football. He would go on to attend Brown University where he played on the varsity football team. He is currently the Minnesota Vikings’ College Scouting Director.