It has been my pleasure to have has 33 years with my team, now called the Fuquay-Varina Twins. Over this time from Erickson’s bombers to the Raleigh Caps to the Twins. I have played with, coached, and managed to many fine young men and have had so a prolific number of momentous events that I’ve decided to record the most memorable of these. If you are lucky you have 3 lives in baseball, the time you play, the time you coach, and your memories. Here’s to the latter!
From 1986-1998 the Wake County Blood Donors were the elite of the eastern NC semi-pro league. Parentally the best team in the league, it took us 3 years to beat them. At Athens High School one Sunday in the top of the 9th with the “donors” up 1 and runners on 1st and 3rd. Daryl Judd came up to the plate. Coach Jimmy Johnson of the donors yelled “Watch the bunt”. A high outside fastball later, Daryl clocked the ball right over the right field fence. As Judd runs passing me going home I said, “Hell of a bunt”. Then Johnson yells “Screw you Hauser”, I merely smiled. Our first win over those guys.
In the Early 90s we played the Winston-Salem Pond Giants, a team which went back to the Negro Leagues. Their coach and owner, Nelson Petry, about 75 years old then said they went back to 1917. We had league games on Sunday and out of league games on Saturdays. We went to Winston-Salem on a Saturday night for one 9 inning game; having a double header Sunday at Mt. Olive. The Giants were as usual mouthy and being down 7-1 in the 6th, Jason Elmore asked to pitch. Jason was to start Sunday in a league game and I asked ‘Why?”. He replied, “I want to shut them up!” Jason threw a hundred mph, no lie. He let me know all he wanted was 1 inning, so I relented. Randy Ragland told me later he had never heard anything like the sound of the mitt in the bullpen echoing out to center. I announced Jason in the bottom of the 6th, and everybody in Ernie Shore Stadium was silent as he warmed up. My young catcher Mike told me to get his glasses after the first pitch. I asked “Why”, he said “I can’t see the ball”. Jason told me, “Tell him to hold the mitt still, I’ll hit it”. Jason faced the 3-4-5 hitters , all large mouthy players. Jason told them “Y’all only get 9 pitches”. Nine pitches later they sat down. We scored 4 runs in the top of the 7th. So, I asked Jason to give me 1 out in the bottom of the 7th. It took 4 pitches. I asked my 13 year old son Billy to go in and pitch. He was terrified, I told him to only throw curve balls. The next batter looked 3 straight curve strikes, and the 3rd batter looked at 2 curves and high fastball, to pop straight up really pissing them off. We lost, but what a moment. The nest day at Mt. Olive, Montreal scout Fred Cox drove up behind the dug out and said “I want that young man”. I told him, “No problem, after 1 more out”. I introduced Jason to Fred, and he left and signed a pro contract.
I received a call one Spring from a man in Goldsboro stating that his son was playing at High Point College. He was putting together a team after the tobacco state league Goldbugs to play at CB Aycock. I do not like “Dad” teams. But accepted him into the E.N.S.B.A.L. After 1 year he folded because his son went to the Southern Collegiate League. After kicking his kids to the curb, Wayne Turnage called and took over the team. Not liking the legacy Goldbugs name, he switched to Bulldogs. Wayne’s first season went undefeated to be the first seed in the tournament held at the E.C.A.P. The Twins having won their first game as has Goldsboro met the second night of the tournament. In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and 2 on, bulldog Greg Wrape came to the plate. Greg out of Hoke County, was their best hitter. Ben Austin, who had finished late with Apex Legion was in center field. All of a sudden, Wrape clocked one dead center with runners running and the Twins up 1 run. Ben turned and ran the ball right to the fence. His black glove flashed up, the ball then went in then out if the glove when he hit the fence. He secured the ball, and the Twins won. This was the 1st bulldog loss of the year, and then they lost out in the next round to go home disappointed. Austin got hit in the eye at college, and he had to become a pitcher to finish his collegiate career. The Goldsboro team folded the next year, and Greg Wrape became a Twin.
The Garner Oriels were always competitive! Owner, Coach Mack Woodleif though was a piece of work. Off the field, a great guy. On the field, an anarchist. He would put people on his roster that were imaginary or in the area, usually ringers. With the tournament in Princeton, the Twins and Oriels had a showdown in the loser bracket on a Saturday night. Saturday morning, Karl Wohlers called to say that his son Stephen had gotten lost on the Cape Fear River the night before; After a canoe flipped, losing their camping equipment and food, and they had no idea where they were. Karl said his plan was to go down to the Cape Fear and go to different bridges to find them that morning. He located Stephen after lunch, after having a rough night of no food and very little sleep. Stephen was to be our starting pitcher that Saturday night and at this point he was mosquito bit, hungry, and tired. And I felt our chances going down the toilet. When we arrived at the field, we learned that Arik Hempe was pitching for garner; a 6’’5 lefty signed with SC just finishing legion ball, a ringer who had not played with the Oriels all year. After 5 innings the score was 0-0, Garner has 15 hits and we have none. Coach “Mack” kept trying to steal, to stretch singles to doubles and doubles to triples. The Twins just played perfect defense, and Stephen walked no one! Bottom of the 6th Scott Schabot walked and Aaron Ranft came to the plate. Aaron went full count and fouled 7 pitches off, then hit the ball to right center, Schabot scored from 1st base and Aaron slid into 3rd just ahead of the throw. I said “That was a hell of an at-bat”, Aaron replied “You damn right”. Hempe was so irritated over that hit, he spiked the next pitch and Aaron scored from 3rd, 2-0 Twins. Top of the 7th, 2 strike outs and an infield pop-up and the Twins NC State club ball pitcher beat the SC recruit in a classic. Stephen Wohlers is an attorney today in Raleigh. Scott “Josh” Schabot is a head chef at the corner of Martin and South McDowell. And Aaron Ranft was managing McDonalds in the Smithfield area. The twins were out hit 17-1 by Garner but they still won 2-0.