CHERRYVILLE — Cherryville Post 100 opens its 2005 American legion baseball season tonight at Hickory, and no one has been looking forward to it more than Evan Wise.
Everything Wise has done in baseball for the past dozen years has groomed him for the summer of 2005.
“To prepare for this season, I have pretty much thought about it every day,” Wise said Saturday on the first day of tryouts at Buck Fraley Field. “Since I was seven years old, this is what I have wanted to do.”
Over the course of his legion eligibility, Wise has worked his way up from the bottom of the roster to veteran player with college experience.
With a season of junior varsity baseball at Methodist College under his belt, the Lincolnton High School graduate is determined to make the most of his last season under the lights of historic Fraley Field.
At Methodist this spring, Wise said he had a “pretty good season,” batting over .300 and playing a number of positions. His versatility — he has experience as an outfielder, catcher and designated hitter — could be Wise`s ticket into the starting lineup on a regular basis.
It would also impress coach Bobby Dale Reynolds if Wise can deliver an occasional three-run homer.
“He loves those home runs. He calls this place the `homer dome,` ” Wise said of Reynolds.
Physically, Wise may be in the best shape of his athletic career.
“In the off-season we lifted (at Methodist). I took part in that. I didn`t kill myself, but I did what I needed to do to get stronger,” said Wise.
“I have been doing a lot of hitting. I have a batting cage, and I hit every time I get a chance.”
Wise is one of several returning legion players who honed their skills at the college level. Dylan Anthony, an infielder and pitcher from West Lincoln, played junior varsity baseball at Limestone. Cherryville alumnus Josh Glover and Bessemer City product Josh Day were teammates this spring at Rockingham College. Burns product Michael Vinsette also played some junior varsity college baseball.
Cherryville`s Steven “Red” Justice, who did not attend college this year, is another veteran player who should help Post 100 on the mound.
In addition, there is a crop of young prospects who could challenge the veterans for playing time. The cast includes West Lincoln pitchers Chris Henderson and Jake Watts, both of whom worked out Saturday for Reynolds and his staff.
“It looks like we have a good mix of players. We should have enough to have a good A team and a good B team,” Reynolds said after the two-hour workout.
As for tonight`s opener, Post 100 will likely be without its players from Cherryville, Burns and Bessemer City high schools. Those three teams played opening-round games in the state 1A and state 3A playoffs Tuesday night.
From Bessemer City, Post 100 is expected to get the services of ace lefthander Daniel Styers (8-0 with an ERA under 3.00). From Burns, Wayne McDonald and Chris Cook are expected back. From Cherryville, Brock Alexander and Trent Thornburg were among the Ironmen who attended Saturday`s drills.
Post 100 will compete again in the Eastern Division of Area Four. Last year, Cherryville lost a five-game series to Shelby in the first round of the playoffs.
No matter what happens this season in the playoffs, Post 100 has an automatic bid to the state tournament as the host team. The eight-team event, which draws area champions and area runners-up from four regions across the state, takes place at Fraley Field in late July and early August.
“I think we have a 13 percent chance to win it, and that`s good enough for me,” said Wise. “My motto is, `05, in it to win it.` ”
by Mike Powell