Sunday, June 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank team celebrates season 10

Leader sports editor

The Cabot American Legion baseball program is a celebrating a decade of smooth operation when it plays its first home game on Monday at Brian Conrade Wade Field, after years with no consistent guidance and a few years without a team,

Elizabeth Frantal took over the program and has been directing it since 2004. With the help of sponsorships from American Legion Post 72 and Centennial Bank, Cabot’s best high-school level baseball players have had a hometown team for 10-straight years.

“When we tried starting this back up 10 years ago we had very little to work with,” Frantal said. “Rayburn Sporting Goods gave us some leftover uniforms that swallowed most of the players up, but we took what we could get. Now with the help of Centennial Bank, their financial supports the last 10 years has made it possible for us to grow our program. We had one team of 11 players that first year and now we have three teams every year with about 40 total players on average.”

The program has also had the benefit of former players giving back of their time to help coach once their eligibility is up. This year there is a record high of alumni on the coaching staff, with four former players making up the six coaches.

Chris Gross, who played for the first team 10 years ago and still has the record for most home runs in a season, has been coaching for eight years. He will be the head coach of the senior team this season. His assistant will be Casey Vaughan, who is a 2013 graduate of Cabot High School and played for the Centennial Bank squad. He played for Crowder Community College in Missouri this season.

The Junior White team also has two former players coaching in Joe Bryant and Bryson Morris. This is Bryant’s second year to help out with the team and Morris’ first. Like Vaughan, it’s also Morris’ first year out of the program as a player. He played this season for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Fifth-year coach David Smith, who is not a team alumnus, leads the Junior Red team but is the head coach of the Cabot Panther Freshmen team. His assistant is Justin Moore, who is in his second year helping out the program.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have so many of our former players show such an interest in getting involved and helping us out the way they have,” Frantal said.

Monday’s home openers against Conway will be free admission to veterans and military families. It will be a doubleheader with Junior Red team taking the field at 5 p.m. and the senior team playing the nightcap immediately afterwards.

“It’s hard to imagine this much time has passed,” Frantal said. “It was tough when we first started out, but there was a need to have this program in Cabot. There was no reason not to have a program like this in our town. Once we got started and began to grow, the support we’ve received has grown along with it. We wouldn’t be where we are without the financial support of Centennial Bank or the sponsorship from Post 71. We’re very, very grateful for all they’ve done.”