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This column is about the late E.D. Hall, the first Beddingfield High baseball coach and a longtime member of the Wilson Hot Stove and North Carolina Baseball Museum advisory board, who died in January 2019. Hall will be among those remembered at Tuesday’s 45th annual Wilson Hot Stove banquet.
I first met Coach Hall when I was about 8 years old when he and my father played together on the Stantonsburg Hawks, a local semi-pro baseball team. Those of you who are familiar with that amazing team know that I looked quite a bit different from most folks that hung out at Hawks Field. Regardless of that, I was accepted and befriended by countless wonderful people. One of them was Coach Hall.
Being the age I was, I would often ask Coach Hall some pretty silly questions. Instead of answering me as an adult “talking down” to a little kid, he always flashed that big smile of his and spoke to me one to one, like I mattered. He would also ask me questions and would actually listen to my answers. I will always remember and appreciate the way he treated me. The respect that he showed towards me helped me develop the tremendous respect and love that I have for him.
I later had the privilege to play for him three years at Beddingfield High. A good coach is often a good psychologist and he was a pretty good one. After an early season practice my senior year, he stopped me for a talk in the dugout. I remember it like it was yesterday. He said, “Roger, I have noticed in the past that when you are on the field, you are very hesitant and nervous; almost scared.”
I wanted to tell him that he was reading things wrong, but he wasn’t. I had always put pressure on myself when I played, because I always felt that I needed to do great things to live up to my family name. He then told me, “You will be my designated hitter this season and will hit fifth or sixth in the lineup, may be even fourth. You will be in the lineup every game, regardless of how you do the previous game. Play loose. I trust you and expect good things from you.”
Well, I played loose and hit over .300 my senior season. That little talk in the dugout somehow “unlocked” me. I will always be grateful for that talk.
I initially went off to college to be a sportswriter. During that time, I started spending time with Tom Ham, the sports editor at the Wilson Daily Times, to learn how to do this kind of job. One day, as we were driving back from Rocky Mount to Wilson, we began talking about the baseball teams I had played on at Beddingfield. I remember Tom saying, “The Beddingfield baseball teams under E. D. Hall were a class act.”
Well, we were a class act because Coach Hall was a class act. It was as simple as that.
During February of my freshman year in college, my father, Tommy Batts, passed away. Coach Hall contacted me and asked me to come out to Beddingfield and help with practice, take some ground balls, get in some swings, etc. He knew that the best medicine for me at that time was to be on a baseball field. Again, a good coach needs to be a good psychologist.
I’ve noticed in recent years that there is a trend for something called a “life coach.” Some people become them and some people use them. Coach Hall was a life coach long before it became trendy. I am so glad that he was in my life! I love him and miss him tremendously.
Roger Batts, a graduate of Beddingfield High and North Carolina State University, is a faculty member in the NCSU Horticultural Science Departmen. He is an avid baseball fan, especially a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. After nearly 30 years in Wake County, he and his wife, Susan, recently moved back home to the family farm outside Black Creek.