Wednesday, 14 August 2019 18:25

Gordon returning American Legion baseball to Hamlet

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Chip Gordon (left) will use his coaching experience from Richmond to head up the American Legion Post 49 team next summer. Chip Gordon (left) will use his coaching experience from Richmond to head up the American Legion Post 49 team next summer. Photo courtesy of Daphne Lee Smith.

HAMLET — After not having an American Legion baseball team for the better part of the last decade and a half, the City of Hamlet will see the white, navy and gold of the Post 49 team return to the diamond next summer.

Following Hamlet City Council’s approval of a $10K budget on Tuesday to renovate Memorial Park’s baseball field, head coach Chip Gordon is “pumped” to lead to program. Gordon, who graduated from Richmond Senior High School in 2004, said the planning for bringing the team back began in May and added it’s been a fairly smooth process.

American Legion Baseball, which is a national institution, dates its origins back to 1925. Hamlet’s team hasn’t played since 2007, and Gordon is hoping the revitalization of the program helps the sport’s growth in Richmond County and the surrounding area.

Gordon is no stranger to the sport, having played varsity baseball at Richmond during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. A catcher, Gordon would go on to play college ball at Surry Community College, before finishing out at St. Andrews University in 2006.

A former teacher, Gordon began his Richmond County coaching career at Rohanen Middle School during the spring of 2011. He was promoted to an assistant baseball coach at Richmond a year later, and served as the head junior varsity coach and catcher’s coach for three seasons (2013-15). 

Gordon also coached the 14U and 16U Charlotte Megastars in 2008 and 2009-10, respectively.

“Since I left coaching at Richmond, I’ve missed it and the game of baseball,” Gordon said Wednesday. “I knew I wanted to get back into coaching baseball eventually, and I thought back on my playing days in Richmond County and how American Legion baseball was the most fun I’d ever had playing. 

“I love the competitiveness of the league, and it helped me become a more complete player,” he added. “It just felt like the right time for Legion baseball to come back to Richmond County. I think we were doing a disservice to graduated seniors by not having it, so this gives them something to do in the summer to develop, see pitching and log innings on the mound to stay prepared.”

Gordon explained that the Post 49 team will be geared toward players who recently graduated high school or who are preparing for their sophomore year of college. Per league rules, no player can participate if he turns 20 years old during the calendar year. 

However, the team is not just limited to former high school players. Gordon added that any current high schooler, freshman through senior, is eligible to play for him and Post 49. He did emphasize that because of the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League, which entails the Richmond Rattlers developmental team, he doesn’t want to “interfere” with other coaches’ programs.

In order for players to compete with Post 49, they must first receive consent from their CCSSL or high school coach.

The Hamlet American Legion program will use Richmond Senior High School as its base school, but the doors are open to any Anson County, Marlboro County and Scotland County player interested. Gordon said he’s had 10 players commit to playing during the 2020 campaign, and can field as many as 18 players.

“We’re completely rebuilding the program, including new uniforms and new equipment,” Gordon, owner of Gordon Family Farms, said. “The new renovations of the field will be a big help. We need to add about 60 tons of dirt to the infield, redo the outfield fencing and lighting and replace the netting around the backstop. Renovations should start in the next week.

“I’m pumped to be back out on the field, and wish we had started this process earlier,” he added.  “We’ll be decking out players out in classic looking uniforms and give them the best the sport has to offer.”

Prospective uniform designs for Hamlet’s American Legion Post 49 baseball team.

Post 49 will compete in the West Division of Area 2, which is comprised of teams across the southeastern part of the state. Included in the West Division are teams from Columbus County, Cumberland County, Roberson County, and Hoke County could join the list if it declares for the 2020 season. New Hanover and Pender counties fall in the East Division.

Area 2 is under the direction of supervisor Rick Zickafoose, who Gordon has worked closely with to kickstart the program’s comeback. Aside from renovations and getting players signed up at no cost to them, the next step is for Gordon and Post 49 to officially declare to the League in November.

Joining the program as an assistant coach will be Chaz Sessoms, who also played college baseball. He began his career at Lenoir Community College before finishing at Campbell University.

Gordon said there’s already been a “high level of interest from players,” and that the only thing required of them is their “time, effort and commitment.” He plans to meet with head baseball coaches Zach Scoggins (Anson High School), Ryan Peirce (Marlboro County High School) and Chad Hill (Scotland High School) in early September to discuss the Legion team.

Once Richmond announces its new head baseball coach after the resignation of 10-year veteran Ricky Young, Gordon hopes to meet with the Raider program.

“American Legion baseball is as close to college baseball without going to school,” Gordon closed. “None of this would be possible without our sponsorships and the business owners in Hamlet and Rockingham who have stepped up to the plate to make this happen.”

Sponsors for the 2020 American Legion Post 49 team include: Tri City, Inc., Ferrel Gas Company, SIA Group, Griffin Nissan, Convenience Corner, Law Offices of Brent Garner, Queen Oz CPA, Carla’s Country Day Care, Leroy Suggs Fishing, Graves Body Shop, Fred’s Barber Shop, Mabry’s Drug Store, Modern Woodmen, American Legion Post 49, Bobby’s Furniture, Allstate Insurance, Dillon Tractor and TRG Sign Company.

For more information on the Post 49 team and the upcoming 2020 season, contact head coach Chip Gordon at 910-995-2496.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 August 2019 18:34
Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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