To the Editor,
Finding Solace in Defeat following a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the championship game at Five County Stadium in Zebulon on Saturday the East Surry Cardinals marched one-by-one up the stairs from the third base dugout. They were greeted by a loud ovation from a sea of red.
Hundreds of fans from Pilot Mountain and surrounding towns made the long trek to Zebulon on Saturday morning to cheer on the then-undefeated Cardinals. It goes without saying that many were there hoping to see the town’s long-time baseball coach capture an elusive state title.
Regrettably, the Cardinals surrendered a 2-1 lead in the final inning of deciding game 3 to an outstanding Whiteville squad. With the final out in the bottom of the 7th inning the Cardinals’ hopes of securing a state championship for the town of Pilot Mountain and for Coach Barry Hall were dealt a crushing blow.
Most of the players’ faces were flooded with tears following the big game. That was especially true for the seniors, including my younger brother. Many of the seniors on this elite team played together competitively beginning at a young age. Together they won many baseball tournaments around the southeast. Indeed, family and friends anticipated that this state championship series would be no different. Unfortunately it was.
Still, that heartbreaking loss on Saturday in the final game will not define these young men; nor will it define the remarkable career of Coach Hall. The young but precocious team from Whiteville threw their hats and gloves into the air in celebration when the final strike was called. They formed a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound as the Cardinals and their many supporters looked on.
I could not help but imagine that the Cardinals, had they prevailed, would have likely celebrated triumph in a different way. I know this because I had the privilege of playing for Coach Hall many years ago.
“Busch League,” he would likely call it. As I embraced my devastated little brother following the game I shared something with him. I told him that there is a lot more to life than a game. I also told him that he had the unique privilege of being a part of a tradition and a program that Coach Hall started 39 years ago in Pilot Mountain. For that, I explained, he should be infinitely grateful.
All of us who had the opportunity to wear the East Surry uniform and play for the old ball coach are better men, better sons, better fathers, and better citizens because of him. Like the opposing coach from Whiteville said following the game, “You’re not defined as a coach by whether you win this game or not — a lot of people do, a lot of people don’t — he’s a great guy, a great baseball guy.”
Coach Hall is more than just a great guy though. He’s more than a great baseball guy. He’s more than his more than 700 career wins, 14 conference championships, 10 conference tournament titles, and this near-perfect season. He is, like he often says of others he respects, a real class act.
So thank you, Coach Hall, for your tireless dedication to East Surry baseball and for your unwavering commitment to excellence both on and off the field.
Brandon Ashburn, Class of 2002