July 2014

By Ruth Fordon

Raptors IMG_2412 (1)
The Blue Claws from left, Gabriel Brown, Dirk Ely, Wyatt Giagu, Max Elicker, Landon Fuller, Maren Donlon, Daymon Esham, Jacob Daniels, Gavin Elicker, Chandler O’Neal, Silas Trethewey, Christian Stevens. Not pictured: Alyssa Bryan. Photo by Melinda Esham


Ocracoke baseball fever has returned! More teams and broader ho­rizons fuel the enthusiasm of coaches, players and families.    Coach Vince O’Neal talked about highlights of the season while feeding balls into the new pitching machine just do­nated at the Ocracoke School.    “After four years, it is like we are jumping up to the ma­jor leagues now, starting from playing in Keith McDermott’s yard to now being part of the Hatteras Island Babe Ruth and Outer Banks Cal Ripken leagues,” he said.

Teams start young and are all co-ed. With 28 children the T-ball team of four to six year olds, coached by Matt Devan, Jason Wells, Adam Burleson and O’Neal, is the largest. They play no games against other teams. Rather, they learn about the game, equipment, how to play together and build basic skills. he undefeated Blue Claws, ages 7 to 9, playing in the Hat­teras Island Babe Ruth League, are with Coaches David Scott Esham, Jason Elicker, Ed Full­er, Newt Sharber and Kelley Shinn. They have won 10 out of 10 games this season with eight new players.

According to Blue Claw player, Daymon Esham their wins can be attributed to their coaches.   “It’s the kids,” David Scott (Daymon’s dad) corrects. “They are learning to focus, to watch and move their feet to the ball and get it in their glove.” “They are learning sports­manship, being a team and they get really, really close,” notes Shinn, whose son Silas plays for the Blue Claws. “The social skills are huge.”

The Raptors also in the Hat­teras Island league are 10- to 12-year-olds coached by Tyler Gilbert, Ernie Doshier, Roger Meacham and Jarett Werley with a 6-4 record this year. When asked about the chal­lenges facing this age group, Gilbert said, “Translating prac­ticing in a yard to a full size field—there are a lot of timing issues.” They also practice a lot of hitting, throwing and catching skills. “In tournament play during the last week of their season, they had parents on the edge of their seats,” says Darlene Styron Doshier, parent to Rap­tor player Alan. The team lost its groove until the last inning before winning 10-9 against the Hatteras Thunder.

During the academic year, the Ocracoke school middle school grades 7 to 9 also play as the Dolphins coached by Bill Cole and Vince O’Neal. Along with Brian Samick and Doug Eifert, O’Neal also coaches the 13- to 15-year-old team of 12 kids playing in the Outer Banks Cal Ripken League. Competing against four teams from Dare County, they play on the Manteo, Hat­teras and Kill Devil Hills ball fields.

Sponsored by the Ocracoke Variety Store, this is their first year playing in the Outer Banks League. This group comprises most of the origi­nal 10- to 12-year-old Raptor baseball team that started play four years ago in the Hatteras Island Babe Ruth League. They continue to pave the way for future generations of kids on the island and will be a part of the first Ocracoke High School team.

Raptors July IMG_2900 (2)
The Raptors, from left, Parker Gaskill, Alexander O’Neal, Julian Bennink, Lee Winstead, Reese Gaskins, Dylan Esham, Mason Fuller, Jackson Strange, David Styron, Cole Gilbert, Whisper Meacham and Hayden Austin. Not pictured: Christian Trejo and Alan Doshier. Photo by Melinda Esham


“Next year we will have true home games on our own base­ball field at Ocracoke Commu­nity Park,” continues O’Neal. “We hope to be playing on it by early fall of this year.” The park is being built at the end of Maurice Ballance Road.

Parents who make the field trips to games with their chil­dren are looking forward to less ferry and travel time, espe­cially for the younger children on school nights. It has taken a great deal of dedication from all to practice almost every day plus travel to games.

Ocracoke’s commitment to the game of baseball is unwav­ering. “I never played baseball as a youth,” Esham said. “Maybe some softball and that was it.” “In the 70s and 80s, we played softball on the beach or wherever we could,” O’Neal added. When the Ocracoke Youth Center joined the Hatteras Is­land Cal Ripken League four years ago, many dreams were realized. Vince’s son Carson, pitching for the Variety Store team, always loved baseball and wanted the chance to play.

It’s for the children that the coaches turn out on the McDer­mott’s front lawn along Silver Lake Road, or on the school playground to drill and teach a game that was never possible for the island parents.

It is not luck that makes the Ocracoke teams perform so well. It’s the passion for the game and the dreams the par­ents carry for their children.

Future plans include a com­munity team, a women’s soft­ball team, co-ed adult rec soft­ball league and a JV school team in 2015.

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