High School Highlights

Youth League Baseball and Softball Season

thumbnailEditors Note: Breakfast with the Easter Bunny is SOLD OUT but the Easter egg hunt is still free and open to all.
When it comes to big happenings in the town of Hope Mills, there are few days more important each year than the start of youth league baseball and softball.
This year’s opening day ceremonies are scheduled Saturday, April 6, at the town’s Brower Park fields.
The event is returning to Brower Park this year after being held at the Fayetteville SwampDogs home field, J.P. Riddle Stadium, last season.
Bruce Armstrong, who is president of the Hope Mills Youth Association, said the main reason for coming back to Brower Park is to hold a ceremony dedicating a multipurpose building at the location in memory of the late Gary Dove.
“We’ve put up a big plaque and photo of Mr. Dove and we’re dedicating the clubhouse building in his memory,’’ Armstrong said. “We thought it would be appropriate to have the opening day ceremonies there so we can recognize him at the park where he gave so many years of his service to being a field supervisor and a coach.’’
Mayor Jackie Warner will read the official proclamation from the town of Hope Mills that approved the memorial for Dove. Armstrong will share his personal remembrances as well.
Dove coached in the Hope Mills Youth Association for more than 20 years in addition to his years of service as field supervisor and two-time president of the youth association. He was also chairman of the Parks and Recreation advisory board for the town of Hope Mills.
“He basically dedicated a lifetime of service to the recreation program in Hope Mills and did it in a very loveable, friendly manner,’’ Armstrong said. “He resolved conflicts with great skill. That’s part of what a field supervisor does.’’
Warner called Dove a fixture in the Hope Mills youth recreation program. “It’s wholly appropriate that some part (of the recreation program) is named for him to keep his memory alive,’’ Warner said. She noted Dove was heavily involved pushing for the construction of the building that will bear his name.
Warner said she has attended opening day ceremonies regularly since 1983, first as the parent of children involved in the youth programs and later in her capacity as mayor.
“I love being in the crowd and watching those opening games,’’ she said. “I love getting involved with the kids, especially the little ones. I look forward to it every year.’’
Armstrong said this year’s opening day ceremonies, except for the special recognition of Dove, will follow a typical pattern. The parade of teams, with roughly 45 teams and some 500 youngsters, will begin at 9 a.m.
Town dignitaries will be recognized, followed by an invocation and the ceremony for Dove.
It will be a busy day at the Rockfish Road complex as breakfast with the Easter Bunny and an Easter egg hunt will be taking place across the street at fields one and two at Municipal Park. Breakfast with the Easter Bunny requires advance reservations but the Easter egg hunt is free.
To find out if tickets are still available for Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, call 910-426-4109.
Because of the breakfast and Easter egg hunt, the normal starting time of the day's first games has been moved back to noon so the younger children can take part in opening day and the events at Municipal Park.
Maxey Dove of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department said parking at the two ball parks will be tight. He encourages families who will have children playing in games on fields 3, 4, 5 and 6 at Municipal Park to park in one of the back lots toward Main Street and behind the public library, then walk over to Brower Park for opening day to help ease traffic.
The Hope Mills Police Department and members of the Hope Mills Community Emergency Response Team will be helping to direct traffic.

Scholar Athletes of the Week

18Taryn OConnor Jack Britt copyTaryn O’Connor 

Jack Britt • Softball • Senior 

O’Connor has a 4.2 grade point average. She was a member of Jack Britt’s 2018 state 4-A champion fast-pitch softball team. She scored 18 runs for the Buccaneers last season. 



19Abby Heitkamp Jack Britt copy

Abby Heitkamp 

Jack Britt • Soccer • Senior 

Heitkamp has a 4.0 grade point average. Last year she was a Sandhills Athletic Conference all-conference selection in soccer. So far this season, she has one goal and one assist for the Buccaneers 

Terry Sanford football moves to temporary home in fall

20TSHS BulldogHere are some odds and ends of news from the Cumberland County high school sports scene. 

Vernon Aldridge, student activities director of Cumberland County Schools, recently released this year’s senior high school football schedule. View it on the page adjoining this one. 

The biggest news on this year’s schedule is that Terry Sanford will be playing all of its home games this fall at Reid Ross Classical High School’s John Daskal Stadium on Ramsey Street. 

After years of debating about what to do with Terry Sanford’s huge but aging brick stadium complex, school officials finally decided to tear it down over the summer and start construction on a new facility that won’t be ready until after the 2019 season is over. 

The Bulldogs will start the 2019 season with three road games and one open date, not playing their first game at Reid Ross until Sept. 20, when they take on Cape Fear. The Bulldogs only play four regular-season games on their temporary field at Reid Ross. Aldridge said when the Bulldogs open their new stadium in 2020 they hope to play seven home games. 

Elsewhere on the schedule for the other county teams, there are no major surprises. Gray’s Creek has a couple of nonconference meetings with Johnston County teams, South Johnston and West Johnston. Both Douglas Byrd and E.E. Smith will play an old county rival, Lee County. 

• In other news for Terry Sanford, last week, Bulldog basketball coach Darren Corbett announced on Twitter that he’s headed back to his hometown to coach at Grimsley High School in Greensboro. 

In just three seasons at Terry Sanford, Corbett compiled a 58-26 overall record, including 34-10 in the Patriot Athletic Conference. 

He guided Terry Sanford to three consecutive conference tournament championships and one regular-season title. 

His final Bulldog team compiled a 20-8 record and lost to Durham Hillside in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association basketball playoffs. 

There is no word yet on how quickly Terry Sanford will begin the search to find Corbett’s replacement. 

• Reminder: Up & Coming Weekly’s Rocket Fizz Scholar Athlete award is open to any senior high athlete in Cumberland County. 

The minimum requirements are an athlete must be a member in good standing of a varsity athletic team at his or her school and enrolled in grade 9-12. The minimum grade point average to be nominated is 3.2 unweighted. The athlete does not have to be a starter, just a current member of a varsity team. 

The award will continue until the end of May. To nominate an athlete, confirm the student’s grade point average with the school guidance department. Then email earlucwsports@gmail.com. Include the student’s GPA, sports played this year and year in school. Also include information about any clubs, extracurricular activities or community activities the student is involved with, along with a high-resolution picture of the student taken with a smartphone or digital camera. 

Nance marks milestone by honoring others

15Jeff Nance Grays CreekWhen most people reach career milestones, they take a little time to reflect and celebrate. Not Gray’s Creek High School baseball coach Jeff Nance. When Nance reached the 400th career win in his head coaching career recently, he observed it in an unusual way. He unveiled signs that were placed on the fence at the Gray’s Creek’s baseball field honoring two coaches who made a big impact on his life: Randy Ledford of South View and Brad Barbour of Douglas Byrd, both deceased. 

Nance said he began planning the recognition a year ago, long before he got his 400th victory. 

“I grew up watching both of them coach,’’ Nance said. “I played for Brad, (at Byrd and in American Legion baseball, and I coached against Randy. Coach Ledford was such good friends with my brother, Ronnie Luck.” 

Luck was the former athletic director at South View during Ledford’s tenure as the school’s baseball and football coach. 

Nance said both men taught him the value of taking good care of baseball facilities. “Coach Ledford and Coach Barbour were meticulous about their fields,’’ Nance said. “They took pride in the small things, cared about how their kids felt when they played. They wanted it to be a good experience.’’ 

Barbour was like a second father to Nance, picking him up to take him to practice and making sure he and the other players on the team had things they needed like shoes and gloves. “He made it nice for us and he loved us,’’ Nance said. 

Ledford had a great sense of humor and was as fundamental a baseball coach as they come. “I always loved his baseball signals,’’ Nance said, laughing. “I’ve seen him — when he wanted a guy to steal, he’d shake his head and nod toward second base. When he wanted a pitcher to pick a runner off, he’d just yell, ‘Now!’ He didn’t get complicated with the game. 

“He really taught fundamentals. He made his kids hustle and play the game the way it was supposed to be played. That’s what I respected about him most.’’ 

Now, with 28 years as a head coach behind him, 12 at Byrd and the last 16 at Gray’s Creek, it’s obvious Nance is a capable coach, too. 

“I’ve never dreaded coming to work,’’ he said. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching school and coaching.’’ 

But he sees the game changing, and not all of it is for the best. “The team concept has kind of gone away,’’ he said. “It’s my at bats, my earned run average, my batting average and all that.’’ 

He sees benefits in the travel ball explosion that allow more players the chance to play. But there’s a downside. “We’re seeing more arm and overuse injuries,’’ he said. “Kids are specializing and playing so much. 

“Parents are paying a lot of money to get kids playing time, investing in them to get better.’’ 

Nance said sometimes when travel ball youngsters arrive on the high school field, they are convinced they’ll be college stars or future major leaguers. “When they get to high school, it seems like the high school coach is the only voice of reason they’ve heard in awhile,” Nance said. 

He said he’s concerned about some of the changes being discussed in the game at the major league level, including putting in a clock for pitchers to speed up their delivery and talk of moving the pitcher’s mound back further. 

“I don’t want the game to change,’’ he said. “I want people to respect the game and what it teaches. I hope our kids can look back at our program 20 years down the road and say, ‘we had some coaches at Gray’s Creek that cared more about us and the game.’ “I hope they say, ‘he loved us and taught us about being a better man as well as a baseball player.’’’ 

Photo: Gray’s Creek baseball coach Jeff Nance

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