See Photos from the Event
The new baseball field wall at Catawba College’s Newman Park was dedicated Saturday in a ceremony held before the college’s opening game of the football season. A crowd of around one hundred gathered to show their appreciation to Cecil and Nan Whitley of Salisbury who once again spearheaded a major sports improvement project at the college.
At the dedication, Catawba College President Dr. Robert Knott lauded the Whitleys for their continuing support of the institution and its varied athletic projects. He recalled meeting with Cecil Whitley in 2003 and said Whitley did not ask for money to undertake the wall project, but instead asked for permission to complete it.
The Whitleys’ financial commitment, leadership and coordination efforts allowed the project to reach fruition, Knott said. He noted that the couple was also responsible for the improvements to the college’s softball field, which is named in their honor.
Both Whitleys are Catawba alumni. Cecil Whitley ’66 is a prominent attorney in Salisbury, while wife Nan ’74 serves as head coach for Catawba’s softball team. She is also a member of the college’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Following the unveiling of a bronze commemorative plaque honoring the Whitleys, which will be displayed at Newman Park, Cecil Whitley shared remarks with those in attendance. He offered special thanks to “all the folks at F & M Bank” for their belief in and willingness to help finance the project. He saluted men of vision, those with the ability to look past today; men of honor and courage, noting the American Legion’s support of baseball; men of dedication, such as Catawba Head Baseball Coach Jim Gantt, who stay the course toward excellence; and Catawba baseball team members, who he said have been called the “boys of summer, “ but who should be called “the men of spring.”
Recalling a $300 scholarship he received which enabled him to attend Catawba College, Whitley said he was grateful to be able “to give something back” to the institution and joked “that you never can tell what a $300 scholarship will end up doing.”
“Our team got better when the wall got higher,” said Coach Gantt. “The new wall has also helped with our recruiting. The field now gives an ‘awe’ or ‘wow’ effect to the recruits.
“The project took about three months from October to January for it to be playable. While the wall itself is complete, they’re still placing advertisement signs on it to help with its financing.”
Forty area advertisers will be displayed on the wall. They include American Legion Baseball, WSAT, C& H Cafeteria, Bridgestone Tire and Auto Center, Stout Heating and Air Conditioning, Trexler Watson and Thomspon CPAs, Salisbury Post, Checkered Flag Barbecue, Towne Pharmacy, Rowan Business Alliance, Foster’s Prime Sirloin, Chamberlain Exterminators, T.M. Schnal Carpentry Service, Whitley Castor & Jordan, F & M Bank, Centralina Orthopedic & Sports Medicine, J.C. Fisher Insurance Agency, RoMedical Center, Doran Shelby Pethel & Hudson P.A., Bradshaw’s Bail Bond Co., Rowan County American Legion, Salisbury Moving and Storage, Kluttz Wrecker Service, Concrete Asphalt Paving in Memory of Tyler Poole, Shoaf’s Wagon Wheel, Mid-State Metals, Power Curbers, Outdoor Power Products, First Step Counseling, Davis Law Firm, Attorney Marshall Bickett, Salisbury Emporium, McCoy Hillard & Parks CPAs, Duckblind, Wayne Eller Home Team Century 21, Fisher Athletic Equipment, Dale’s Sporting Goods, The Trophy Shop, Casa Grande, and Trexler Trucking.
The 18-foot high, 10-foot wide wall replaces an aged metal wall and gives the home team a distinct advantage in play, according to Catawba senior baseball outfielder Thomas Giles of Lynchburg, Va. “The wall is a disadvantage for opposing teams. They don’t get the opportunity to practice playing the baseball off the wall like we do. When we’re hitting, their inability to react to the baseball turns some doubles into triples for us, and when we’re playing defense, we have an advantage and can prevent a double from turning into a triple by knowing how the ball comes off the wall.”
Newman Park is not only home to Catawba’s Indians, but hosts many other tournaments andEvents such as the South Atlantic Conference tournament, American Legion games, Junior American Legion state and regional tournament, and the area high school classic tournament. Downtime is rare at the field, according to Coach Gantt.
“Cecil Whitley brings a whole different outlook on things even if you put baseball aside,” Gantt said. “He and Nan are giving people. They enjoy doing things to help others.”
The Whitleys, married for 31 years, are parents of two adult children, both of whom are also Catawba alumni - Adrian Gantt ’98 of Salisbury, Alex ’00 of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.