You’ll need all 10 fingers – and maybe a toe or two -- to count the number of Halls of Fame that have added George Whitfield to its membership. So far, that is.
And earlier this month, the legendary baseball coach received yet another – and extremely appropriate – accolade when he learned that the walkway into Kinston’s Grainger Stadium would be named in his honor.
The dedication ceremony will be held later this spring. And from then on, everyone who enters the main gate to see the Down East Wood Ducks play another game in the Carolina League will wander to their seats along George Whitfield Way.
And make no mistake, Whitfield is Mr. Baseball in this quiet eastern North Carolina hamlet. He’s also the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame member of the month for April.
In nearly six decades of coaching high school and American Legion baseball in Kinston and Goldsboro and Rockingham, Whitfield has had an impact on the lives of literally thousands of young men. Just as coaches Amos Sexton and Frank Mock had on his own many years ago.
Sexton actually took Whitfield into his home after his father died when he was just 12 years old. Whitfield’s mother had passed away when he was 18 months old and the teenager, his support system completely gone, was searching for stability in his life.
“I don’t know where I would be (without Sexton’s help),” Whitfield told A.J. Carr of the Raleigh News & Observer on the occasion of his 2005 induction into the NCSHOF. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be here. God has always put somebody there for me at every place in my life.”
And Whitfield has been sure to pay that forward throughout his eight decades of life.
Whitfield, who graduated from East Carolina, won 1,219 games and lost just 413 as a high school, college and American Legion coach. He coached five high school state championship teams – the last when he came out of retirement in 2015 – and four American Legion state crowns.
Whitfield was chosen as the national high school baseball coach of the year in 1969 and ’74. And he was also selected as one of the “100 Coaches to Remember” by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association when the organization celebrated its centennial in 2013.
And in January the 83-year-old Whitfield once again hosted his popular youth baseball clinic – which has run annually since 1972. The clinic has always been free for the kids and for the last two decades has included their fathers, who often write Whitfield to tell him what a great experience it was to share with their children.
Not only do those youngsters participate in pitching, hitting, fielding and baserunning drills, they also learn life skills like the value of discipline and teamwork. The clinic regularly features several college coaches and representatives from major league teams. And in typical Whitfield fashion, he honors many other people for their contributions to sports in what has come to be known as the “George Whitfield Hall of Fame,” a great recognition in its own right.
“This is something I believe in,” Whitfield told the Goldsboro News-Argus prior to the start of the clinic. “I love baseball and I want all the kids to hear good people talk about it and demonstrate how to be a good player.”
And a good person, as well. For more information about Whitfield, click here. https://www.ncshof.org/georgewhitfield