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Eason, others share baseball stories

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PCC baseball coach Tommy Eason, center, talks with George Whitfield, left, and Claud Kennedy at ECU's Murphy Center on Jan. 19, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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By Ronnie Woodward
The Daily Reflector

Friday, January 20, 2017

Veteran Pitt Community College coach Tommy Eason was a natural as the keynote speaker in the Murphy Center on Thursday night for the 28th annual Pitt-Greenville Hot Stove League baseball banquet. His approach was reminiscent of his first at-bat at East Carolina back in 1989.

“(It) was a home run, so that broke the ice and made things easy,” said Eason, who ended his Pirate career with 39 homers, 155 RBIs and a .355 batting average before being selected in the sixth round of the 1991 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.

After settling into his speech, the recent East Carolina Hall of Fame inductee chronicled his baseball timeline from Greene Central High School star to ECU standout and four seasons in the minor leagues that included sharing locker rooms with Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and playing against Michael Jordan.

The person who introduced Eason was former Pirate coach Gary Overton. He called Eason one of the best hitters to ever come out of eastern North Carolina.

“Although Tommy maybe wasn’t a five-tool player, he certainly was an average runner and was outstanding in the other four areas,” said Overton, who coached Eason at ECU.

Eason is now a successful coach of his own at PCC, where he led the Bulldogs to four regional championships from 2008-16.

When he left his post as ECU assistant coach to lead the Bulldogs in 2006, Eason said his original goal was to help change the image of junior college baseball. It is a battle he still deals with when recruiting and helping potential players map out their futures.

“The education at Pitt Community College for two years is great,” Eason said. “From a baseball standpoint, we sell the fact that if you don’t get the opportunity you are looking for going into your senior year (of high school) then junior college is a great route to take.”

The amateur player of the year award went to Tyler Garrett, who holds the career stolen bases records at D.H. Conley High School and Barton College.

“His work ethic for four years was unbelievable,” Conley coach Jason Mills said of Garrett’s prep career. “He accepted that he wasn’t 6-foot-4 or 6-5 and hitting balls out of the park. He played the game because he loved the game.

“The other thing about him at Conley was his leadership, how much he cared for our program and how much he cared for his teammates.”

Scholarships went to Gregory Hardison, Coleman Sawyer and Griffin Mercer from J.H. Rose High School.

Chris Young was named the volunteer coach of the year. In the contributions category, Walt Mercer was honored as an individual contributor and the Optimist Club as a corporate sponsor.

Also honored were Chris Ball, a J.H. Rose grad and sports turf manager for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves, Mike Ward on his 69th birthday and recently retired Pitt County high school coaches Robert “Peanut” Langston and Chris Ross.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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