01/14/18 — Whitfield clinic

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Whitfield clinic

By Ethan Smith
Published in Sports on January 14, 2018 3:08 AM


Baseball happens fast.

Life does, too.

And, if you're like Maj. Gen. Al Aycock, you'll learn things from the All-American game that you can apply back to the tedium of daily routine.

These days, Aycock watches the bat-cracking, diamond-rounding sport, and especially enjoys going to minor league games -- where he is fascinated by the decision making process and how players at all levels have to react quickly to scorching line drives or dirt-busting grounders.

"It applies back to life," Aycock said. "Everything that happens in life comes at you fast. You never know when an opportunity is going to be given to you, you never know when you're going to have to make a life choice, you never know when some tragedy is going to happen. Life gets tossed at you fast, and baseball is one of those learning fields where you teach people to deal with both victory and defeat."

And there were plenty of students of the game in attendance Saturday at George Whitfield's 46th Annual Baseball Clinic at Wayne Community College.

Youngsters clad in classic baseball attire flocked to the Moffatt Auditorium to hear Aycock speak, as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Bench Coach Jerry Narron, before splitting off into groups for the day to learn various skills of the game.

Both Aycock and Narron are Goldsboro natives who have gone on to have illustrious careers.

Both men played sports growing up, and they took the lessons they learned on the field and applied them to their lives.

This is what they hoped to instill in the baseball hopefuls attending Saturday's clinic.

"Be ready," Aycock told the starry-eyed youths in the rows of the auditorium. "If I can give you one bit of advice about your baseball playing and about your life, it's about being ready."

Aycock shared an anecdote from his high school football days, where he had a chance to be subbed in for a guard.

Despite his best efforts, the foray into a new position didn't go so well and when the pads stopped smacking together, he was pulled back onto the bench.

Aycock said he felt sorry for himself, and failed to support his team -- and that's when he learned the valuable lesson of being ready to do whatever it takes for your team.

His coach told him that while he was disappointed in his performance, he was more disappointed in Aycock's attitude that day. The coach told him if he decided to feel sorry for himself on the sidelines of a sports game, he would wind up one day feeling sorry for himself on the sidelines of life.

"When you get stung like that, you can only do one of two things -- you can either get back up and do what you should have done, or you can just stay stung and feel sorry for yourself," Aycock said.

Narron followed Aycock and shared some of his experiences with what sports have taught him about life, and urged the kids and teens attending to pay attention to what they learned at the clinic on Saturday.

The Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach told the crowd about the guys he's played with and worked with, and how the best ones are the ones who give everything they've got in practice and in game play.

It's about hustle and attention to the smaller details of the game, he said.

Everyone attending the clinic had the chance to learn valuable insights about things like indoor and outdoor drills to make them a better player, pitching and catching, infield and outfield play, as well as base running and hitting.

College coaches, major league scouts and others were the ones providing the lessons to the youths who Narron urged to soak in what the professionals had to say.

Narron urged the up-and-coming bat-crackers to take care of the little things, on and off the field.

He said if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.

And before he wrapped up his advice so the players could go into the class sessions and learn about the fundamentals and intricacies of the game, he left the players with a parting shot about how baseball relates to life, and how you can learn from it if you're willing.

"Baseball's a game of failure. It'll break your heart," Narron said. "...To be a baseball player, you've got to have balance in your life. You do everything right and it can come out wrong, but you've got to have balance because there's so much failure in the game."