Date: May 1, 2019
By: Eric Leary
The On the Field series continues today with Corey Skinner, the skipper at Ayden-Grifton High School, located in Pitt County. Coach Skinner not only leads the Chargers as the head coach but is also an alum of the program. We can’t wait to see what he has to share about himself and his team.
At this point of the 2019 season how would you say it’s going? Based on your pre-season expectations how is your team’s progress towards those goals it may have set?
We’ve had the normal ups and downs, but we had some guys step up in really big situations over the last few weeks and get us a few big wins. Our goals were to better than last year and go one step further in our season. So far we have put ourselves in a situation where all our goals are attainable.
Weather is always an issue for baseball. This season has definitely presented some challenges. How have you adapted to the weather
We’ve had to be very flexible. Coaches and umpires have been more than gracious accommodating all the changes. At one point this year, we had played fewer games on the original date/time than we had moved. Shout out to the 7 weather apps on my phone! The real MVPs.
Who are the the players in your program going on to play at the next level? Also, who on your team deserves to get some attention from those looking for top players?
Jordan Atkinson our 1B/3B/DH has committed to Methodist along with OF Mason Ross who is also committed to Methodist. Junior C – Brandon Benfield is an absolute stud at the plate. A catcher who can swing it! Gap to gap power. We’ve also got a sophomore on the mound who has really emerged this year in Tanner Cannon. Good velo and really has devoted himself to developing his secondary pitches and being better at spotting up. JR-SS Jackson Upchurch really sets the tone offensively for us. Austin Jones has been our ace again this year and led our staff. He’s got a few offers out there, just trying to find a good fit. Blake Mclawhorn (CI) has really come into his own at the plate. LHH who has pull power. High School QB trying to decide what’s best for him at the next level.
How long have you been the head baseball coach at Ayden-Grifton High School? And what other stops or sports have you made on your coaching journey? Additionally, who have been some influences in your coaching development?
This is our 6th year here as a staff and I was an assistant to Chris Ross here for 3 years before that. I played for Coach Ross and got to come back and coach here at the same place I played. Great influence on me and how to really devote yourself to a program. I was also lucky enough to spend some time with Coach Ryan Meadows at North Pitt for 3 years and now we coach Pitt County Post 39 American Legion together. I am so privileged to be around the coaches we have in Pitt County. Many times the first and last person I talk to every day are one of RV or Coach Meadows. So much knowledge that I can get from each and every conversation with those guys.
Who have been some of the most memorable players and teams you’ve had the opportunity to coach? What makes them stand out?
The teams that stand out the most are the 2014 and the 2017 team. 2014 was our first year and those guys really bought into what we’re doing as a staff and played for the conference championship against North Lenoir late in the year. We went on to win a playoff game and unfortunately got beat by Coach Hill and Evan Voliva at Currituck. 2017 was a very young team. Many of our seniors this year were sophomores starting for the first time that year. They were young and really hungry. They really didn’t know what they were apart of when we made it to the 3rd Round that year, but it was a great run.
Clay Wilson(PCC) is a guy that stood out for us in our years here. He was an absolute bulldog on the mound. Just wanted the ball in every big situation. Dakota Delisi(LCC) was another kid that really stood out on the mound. People remember him because of how unorthodox his motion was on the mound. Hunter Cannon (NC Wesleyan) was a catcher we had a few years back. Best throwing catcher I’ve ever had. First and Thirds got really simple that year. Throw em’ out every time.
Rivalries and competition can sometimes be intense. But good coaches recognize and appreciate an opponent who brings out the best in them. Which teams and coaches in your career have you found to be the most challenging to face?
North Lenoir has always been the team that has been a big game for us. We had some really good battles those first few years in the conference. They are so well coached and the tradition of winning there is unbelievable. All our Pitt County rivalries are awesome too. Playing North Pitt and DH Conley are always big time, and you can’t talk about rivalries at AG without mentioning Farmville Central.
What is your favorite part of practice?
Mass Fungos with throws.
What is your favorite position or skill to coach? Favorite drill? Infielders and Ozzie Drill with or without a short fungo involved.
What does your program do on game day that is unique or special?
We have a local church (Elm Grove Free Will Baptist) right near the school that provides our baseball and softball teams with pre-game meals before home conference games. It’s incredible and our guys love it!
What is your favorite uniform and hat look for your program?
Short Grey Pants with Striped Socks, Green Tops, and Grey Hat.
What do you consider to be the best part of your facility at Ayden-Grifton High School?
We have some old school bleachers that someone made for the school many years ago. They are set up high and really big. It’s a unique feel for fans and players.
- When your team is hitting – coach 3B or dugout? 3B
- When you give signals to hitters – signs or wrist bands? Wrist Bands and we still mess it up.
- When your guy hits a HR – high five or fist bump? Fist bump all day.
- When you are in uniform – ankle length pants or high socks? Depends on home or away and what the seniors pick.
- When you reach in your back pocket – stopwatch or no stopwatch? Stopwatch.
- When you are marking your field – chalk or painted lines? Really crooked painted lines.
Thanks to Coach Skinner for sharing with us! Impact Baseball wishes him and his programs all the best the rest of the way in the 2019 season!