An anonymous letter about Junior Legion baseball — with two updates

I really mulled long and hard about running this letter that I received via e-mail late last week, but I finally decided to go ahead and do it. Why? Because it’s a free country and I wanted to see what you guys thought about the letter.

I want to make this crystal clear: these are not my feelings, but those of a parent of a player on one of the teams that played the other night.

UPDATE  2:45 P.M. TUESDAY: I did make one mistake here; I should’ve left the youngsters mentioned in here out of the letter. I have made that correction and I apologize for leaving their names in there.

UPDATE 2:45 P.M. WEDNESDAY: I have had several calls about a lady you guys were “guessing” it was; it’s not her and I really think an apology is in order. I have killed all references to her name from the comments, because she’s really going through a tough time in her life right now (her brother died).

Let the ranting begin –

Mr. Hanks,

For some reason I failed to see the score of the North Lenoir-Kinston Junior Legion game from Monday night (June 23).  Maybe there was not a sports correspondent from the Free Press at the game at all.  To tell the truth, I wasn’t there either–but I heard about it.

However, I did attend the game tonight between North Lenoir and Kinston (on Wednesday) and found it very disturbing.  First, that I witnessed not only some of the poorest umpiring (which is intolerable because they actually get paid), but some of the poorest coaching also.  You see, the Kinston coach, Jason Wade, who you praised so much in your article about the Kinston-Snow Hill game, is, well…….a punk.  Not just a punk, but the kind of coach that has no business on a baseball field, softball field, an air field, or a wheat field.  He complained about EVERYTHING!!!  He complained that the North Lenoir batters were out of the batter’s box (which is weird because there was no batters box drawn–go figure!!!), he appealled a tag play, that ended up winning the game, that even a blind umpire (and there have been a few this year) could have seen.  He totally got under the skin of the ball players, and I haven’t even talked about the North Lenoir players.  Not only that, but his players had the same attitude he did.  The losing pitcher slammed his glove in disgust when the winning run was scored.  His “star player” tried to take first base after the ball hit the end of bat, then got upset because he was told to return the the batter’s box (which still wasn’t drawn).

Which brings me to the North Lenoir players.  First, there are way too many of them, especially rising Freshmen.  There is not one rising Freshman on that team has any business playing against rising Sophomores and Juniors.  There was one poor rising Freshman playing third base and he still hasn’t seen a ball that went past him.  The other problem with these kids is that up until this summer they have never seen a fastball or breaking ball thrown by a 15- or 16-year old.  They are just overmatched and overpowered. 

The next problem with the North Lenoir team is the coach, Donell Garriss.  He may have played baseball in college but he is turning into what I call a “Mini-Montague”.  He seems to have no idea what he is doing and even less that Jason Wade.  He doesn’t “coach” the game.  He doesn’t seem to understand how to manufacture a run or even know how to position his defense. 

Which brings me to the my next point, he doesn’t play the kids who have experience playing at this level and puts in a Designated Hitter for kids who aren’t, as he says, “producing at the plate.”  Well coach, no one on your team is producing at the plate and that is why you had to win the game tonight on a sacrifice fly.  Yup, the winning run tonight was scored on a sacrifice fly.  I understand that is part of baseball, but at least make sure of the run by putting in a kid a little faster than the only kid on the team that has played every inning of every game this year (and to me, he is not “producing at the plate”).

A few months ago a reader wrote to you that they were upset that a parade was planned for the Kinston High basketball team because they won the State Championship, but no parade was planned for the North Lenoir baseball team when they won the State Championship.  I understand the in most minds, nothing outside of the Kinston city limits matters in this county, but other good things happen in Lenoir County.  In my mind, I don’t think that a parade should have been planned for the North Lenoir baseball team.  If they want a parade let La Grange do it since that is where North Lenoir is located.  Even with that I don’t think that any fanfare should be given to North Lenoir’s baseball team.  The coach, Jim Montague, is a conniving, manipulative human being that puts winning in front of  what is most important in sports–having fun.  For some reason he is seen as an oracle and a disciple from the baseball gods.  I wonder if a lot of people know he tried to “recruit” a baseball player from a rival high school so that another State Championship would be somewhat guaranteed.  He runs his program with an iron fist and demands perfection from his players.  Maybe this is why Garriss runs his team the way he does (not to mention Garriss is an assistant coach on the Varsity team under Montague).  It is often said that children will mimic the actions of their parents.

Another problem with baseball at North Lenoir is that the Junior Varsity team means nothing to Montague.  They have to compete wearing jerseys that have been at the school for over 10 years.  They have a coach that is a basketball coach by trade while there are 3 assistant coaches on the Varsity team.  They are treated like second class citizens by Montague and his coaching staff, but he and his staff are revered by the same people he oppresses.

In closing, maybe something needs to be done about baseball in Lenoir County.  Maybe more press coverage would be a good thing.  Maybe making sure fun is a priority might make it better.  Maybe an influx of new blood is needed.  Heck, maybe we need to look at what is right with the game in Lenoir County and then we will see what is wrong with the game.

Signed,Anonymous Baseball Fan

Morning news report … in the afternoon; June 30, 2008

As I’m trying to get my legs under me in my new job, this is coming to you much later than I want it to. I’ll try to do a better job tomorrow.

My goal in this report is to give you a quick round-up of interesting news happening in the area, region, state and nation that catches my eye. I want you to interact, too, with stuff that you see by posting them in the comments section.

I’m also going to throw some non-newsy type stuff in this a.m. report, like listing the first five songs played on my iPod when I hit shuffle (I have 2,400 songs on it). I’ve always thought that is interesting, too, so I’d love to see the names of the songs when you hit shuffle, too. Just don’t cheat! If Neil Diamond comes up, dammit — type it in!

So here we go: the first Hanks Morning News Report (at 3:30 p.m.) –

QUESTIONING OBAMA’S PATRIOTISM

Obama doesn’t like his patriotism questioned: Here’s a CNN report about Obama responding to charges that he’s not “patriotic enough.”

My take: You’ve seen the e-mails circulating about Obama not holding his hand over his heart, about Obama’s wife calling white folks “Whitey” and about Obama being a Muslim. He’s started a Web site (www.fighttherumors.com) to stop those rumors, but evidently, it’s not working well enough. Now, he’s taking the fight to his campaign stops. I just want a good, clean election without the name calling and disgusting rhetoric of past elections. Is it possible for us to do that?

MY FIRST (REAL) NEWS STORY

A 37-year-old man — with his two children (5 and 3) in the back seat — led police on a 4-mile chase through Kinston on Saturday. You can read my story here.

My take: First, what a well-written story! Seriously, though, it was my first crack at a breaking news story since I helped our news side with coverage of the West Pharmaceutical plant explosion in January 2003. It was a lot of fun covering it and, quite honestly, it was a lot like coming in after a Friday night football game, being on deadline and having to get the story out.

If all stories are that fun to write, I think I could actually begin to like this…

ARE SPORTS DEPARTMENTS RACIST?

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, this nugget is for my good friends in Greene County who are not pleased that I continue to bring up the fact that there’s never been a black head football or basketball (boys’ or girls’) coach: A report by Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, has determined that sports departments at newspapers are failing in gender diversity and only average in racial diversity. Read the Associated Press report here.

My take: In 16 years of working or free-lancing at primarily four newspapers, I have never worked with a black or female sports reporter at the paper I was at. And as I have said about the Greene Central situation, that’s pretty sad. Want more female sports in the paper? Get more female sports reporters. 

The iPod shuffle 

Syndicated, Inc. — Weird Al Yankovic

Crank That — Soulja Boy

Wild Horses — Rolling Stones

Forever — Papa Roach

Cemeteries of London — Coldplay

The “new” blog

As I mentioned in my inaugural news column in today’s Free Press, I am going to continue the blog, albeit with a slightly different flavor. Instead of this blog being primarily a sports forum, I’m going to also delve into local news matters. I’m looking forward to some healthy debates about the presidential election, the local elections and our school system(s). I’m also going to have a morning news report where I cull some of my favorite stories from around the region, state and nation where I provide links so you can go check them out yourself.

I also — as I predicted — left out some key names in my final “official” sports column (oh, I’ll have others!), including one of the most important organizations: the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department. Bill Ellis, Tim Knobeloch, Thurman Pate, Scott Alston, Duncan Charlton, Galen Treble and the boys on McClellean Street have the best Parks and Recreation Department in North Carolina, in my opinion. They bring literally millions of dollars into our economy that the average folks never realize. We’re lucky to have them here.

I’ve had a few e-mails asking me about the football pick ‘em contest — never fear, it’ll be back this year. Besides, we have to see if JWade can make it four in a row! I also want to have a couple of blog fantasy football leagues this year, so if you want to participate, start thinking about it now and making preparations.

Anyway — I want to hear your suggestions for the new look of the blog. What do you want to talk about? How can I make this better for you?

Thanks for the support, bloggees!

Monte Dutton column: “For God’s sake, don’t encourage them”

For whatever reason, this news-side column was held a day by our sister paper (The Gaston Gazette) because it didn’t fit some sort of stereotype. Whatever. He’s not real happy about it.

Want to read more about the column? Visit Monte’s MySpace here, where you can see his original column (printed in full below with Monte’s permission) and his thoughts.

My take: Unless it was a straight space concern (and I can’t imagine The Gazette having that kind of problem), I don’t know why this column couldn’t run. They’re afraid they’re going to upset some rednecks? Who knows.

Here you go:

Towns that are the same in population have somehow grown twice as big in size. Have you noticed this?

            When I was a boy, the family farm was in the country. Now it borders the city limits and an apartment complex that is, basically, the bane of my existence. The town still has about 10,000 people living in it, just as it did 40 years ago.

Because of that apartment complex, I had to install an alarm system in my house. Now I’ve got an alarm system but not a doorbell. Someone smashed it, and I haven’t yet gotten around to replacing it. It hasn’t been but, oh, five years.

One of these years I’ll remember it. The problem, obviously, is that I never have to ring my doorbell.

Strange items of trash – there’s really no need to go into detail – have been thrown over the fence into my road. .Kids are always spilling over, sometimes leaving bicycles parked on the edge. I’ve found the best policy is just to walk out the front door, stand there and look as mean as possible. Most times they scatter without a word. If I actually go up and lecture or yell, all that does is get broken glass or nails scattered in the gravel.

            The summer brings a stream of people asking if they can fish in my pond. Some of them look as if one might not want them knowing too much about the property. Again, it’s a delicate problem. A firm “no” works better than an angry one.

            I once read a novel by Wallace Stegner (one of America‘s more overlooked literary figures) about a retired man and his wife who gradually watched their property being overrun by what evolved into a hippie commune. A guy from the apartment complex reminded me of the antagonist in that book.

            Let’s just call him Ricky. He’s allegedly disabled. For a time, he befriended two of my nephews. They lobbied for me to let him set up some lounge chairs, build an occasional campfire and hold court in a little grassy area just off the apartment’s property and just on mine. See, Ricky had already been banned from holding such convivial gatherings on the apartment’s property. I never approved of this; I just took it under advisement. Next thing I noticed, it was a done deal.

            Ricky has more rusted vehicles than some junkyards. There isn’t room for them in his allotted space at the apartment complex. He asked me to let him park a motor home behind the barn. Apparently, the presence of that motor home caused my sister to have an argument with her then-husband, who, as best I can tell, thought that my sister might be having an affair and that the motor home was some sort of sultry love nest.

            Apparently my sister’s husband had neither seen the motor home nor met Ricky. Or, more likely, he was just nuts. There’s a lot of that going around.

            Ricky was one of those guys who, if granted an inch, would invariably take a mile. The final straw came when I returned home from a NASCAR track only to find a Confederate flag flying on my property. I was furious. It was sort of the ultimate “what will the neighbors think?” moment.

            I went over to Ricky’s apartment. If I had plucked that flag out of the ground, I would’ve looked like I was in Pickett’s Charge.

            “What in the wide, wide world of sports made you think you could hoist a Confederate flag on my property?” I asked, not doing very well with my Jim McKay impression. It was more like a Jim McMahon impression. Or an Ed McMahon imitation. The pipes boomed.

            “I didn’t think you’d have no problem with it,” said Ricky, calmly.

            I told him Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t have had a bigger problem with that flag than I did. I added that I never again wanted to see him on my property. I called the police and told them I never again wanted to see him on my property. The police said “not so fast.” I had to draft a letter, get it notarized, hand-deliver one copy to Ricky, send another by certified mail and take copies to both the police and sheriff’s departments.

            When I confronted Ricky again, he read the really, really, really official letter and said, “All right, then. Sorry we couldn’t make things work. No hard feelings, OK?”

            I just turned around and left. So far he hasn’t burned my house down. 

Sauls retires/forced out from Farmville Central

This is more than two weeks late, but Dixon Sauls has retired — or been forced out — from Farmville Central. Read John Swartz’ well-written story here from the Daily Reflector.

My take: It’s a sad, sad day when money outweighs class and that’s my feeling of what happened in Pitt County in this instance. Swartz wrote that “budgetary concerns” forced Sauls out and that’s ridiculous. Coach Sauls is as classy a coach as you’ll find. There have been hundreds of Farmville boys who have come through his system who have gone on to become great young men. The reason? Coach Sauls.

He had been what those in the education field call a “double-dipper” — a retired teacher who had a year-to-year contract, drawing his retirement while also getting a salary. I understand that costs more money, but how much value can you put on someone of Sauls’ character and experience? Yeah — let’s hire a new teacher that will cost us 1/2 or 1/3 but doesn’t know the area or kids … makes a LOT of sense.

I hope Coach Scott Gardner does a good job at FC (well, except when he plays our Lenoir County schools). But it’s just not going to be the same to see Coach Sauls walking the Jaguar sideline.

NBA Draft contest winner — AdrianBrewer!

AdrianBrewer correctly selected 7 of the top 10 picks; in my opinion, an astounding feat. His only misses were Jerryd Bayless at No. 4 (Russell Westbrook), Russell Westbrook at No. 6 (Danilo Gallinari) and Anthony Randolph at No. 9 (D.J. Augustin).

Mr. Brewer has won four tickets to any Kinston Indians game of his choice — dude, e-mail me at bhanks@freedomenc.com to send me the game you want to attend.

Yes, I’m a little p.o. that New York picked Danilo Gallinari at No. 6, because I was 5-for-5 to that point. And after that miss, I got the next two picks correct. Freaking Knicks…

How we broke down –

AdrianBrewer: 7-3

Hanks: 5-5

BlueDevil99: 5-5

Randy Capps: 5-5

Alan: 5-5

Matt_T: 5-5

Gabe Whisnant: 4-6

Richard Clark: 4-6

Johnny Kennedy: 3-7

How the “experts” did –

Sporting News’ Sam Smith: 7-3

ESPN.com’s Chad Ford: 6-4

Sporting News’ Dan Shanoff: 6-4

Sacramento Bee’s Scott Howard-Cooper: 6-4

Janny Hu, San Francisco Chronicle: 4-6

NBA.com: 4-6

AOL’s Tom Ziller: 2-8

My NBA Draft top 10 prediction

Don’t forget to enter your own predictions here so you can win four tickets to the Kinston Indians game of your choice. Your deadline is at 6:58 p.m. today…

My predictions:

1. Derrick Rose

2. Michael Beasley

3. O.J. Mayo

4. Russell Westbrook

5. Kevin Love

6. Eric Gordon

7. Joe Alexander

8. Brook Lopez

9. Jerryd Bayless

10. Danillo Gallinari

Need some help? Here’s Richard Clark’s predictions and Gabe Whisnant’s picks.

Robin Rogers’ new CD

As the tag says — this clearly has nothing to do with sports. But on the old blog a couple of years ago, I introduced you to Robin Rogers, a talented blues singer out of Gaston County. She has now signed with Blind Pig Records and her first CD with the label (and third overall) is now out on the streets.

You can order your copy here.

I met Robin and her husband (and lead guitarist) Tony back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I hosted a blues music radio show in Gastonia. I had the honor of helping introduce her music to the Gastonia/Charlotte airwaves on my show. She has a tremendous voice and energy and has already won several nationwide contests.

Her music is not Top 40 and it’s not part of the mainstream, but it’s awesome. Give it a listen at her Web site (www.robinrogers.com) or at these YouTube.com sites:

Ain’t No Use

Steady

Treat Me Right