Catching a Tiger by the tail

Finklea given Lifetime Achievement Award by Wilson Hot Stove

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The successful, the fortunate and the caring find various options for giving back.

Long-time Wilson insurance agent Chuck Finklea does so with his generosity for over 38 years in supporting community athletic programs. Youth programs especially benefit.

For his longstanding commitment, Finklea was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wilson chapter of the Hot Stove League during its 44th annual banquet Tuesday evening in Recreation Park Community Center.

“They must be at the bottom of the barrel,” Finklea expressed in a later interview. I don’t deserve this. I am very humbled and very surprised.”

Finklea did acknowledge he wanted to make certain he wasn’t receiving the same accolade that the Hot Stove presented to him some 20 years ago.

He was introduced by Wilson’s Russell Rawlings, renowned for his speaking ability and wit.

Rawlings, an author and a member of the Barton College Athletic Hall of Fame, informed the turnout of some 350: “I was up here a few minutes ago delivering the invocation. Now, I’m up here talking about Chuck Finklea. That pretty well covers both ends of the spectrum.”

Finklea pretty much expected the barb.

Rawlings introduced Finklea when he was inducted into the Barton Hall of Fame last October and Finklea admitted: “He got me pretty good.”

Rawlings described Finklea as a person with “a heart of gold who has supported the game at every level” and declared Finklea being saluted for his involvement in the community was certainly appropriate.

Finklea was born in Sumter, South Carolina. As a second-grader, Finklea’s family moved to Farmville. He excelled in baseball at Farmville High, Farmville Central and Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College.

“He took Barton College as his school and Wilson as his home,” Rawlings remarked.

Earlier this month, Finklea’s beloved Clemson Tigers captured the College Football Playoff national championship for the second time in the last three years, and Finklea exclaimed: “That took the cake.”

During the banquet, Finklea’s unwavering support of American Legion baseball in Wilson was cited with appreciation by Post 13 Athletic Officer Bob Walston.

Finklea’s impact will continue.

“I have been very, very lucky,” he said, “and I am happy to give back to the community.”


Babe Allen, head of the Eastern Plains Officials Association, dealt with special circumstances in announcing the latest recipient of the Eunice Sasser  Memorial Award, extended annually to a promising baseball umpire.

Allen presented the distinction to his son, Brian Allen.

Brian Allen’s peers suggested to Babe Allen that his son was deserving of the award well before this year, but Babe Allen reasoned: “He’s got to earn it.”

Brian Allen has umpired high school baseball for seven years and has advanced to the collegiate scene.

He has worked three independent schools state-championship series as well as a pair of North Carolina High School Athletic Association East Region finals. Playoff appearances total 11.

“I am going to watch him grow up,” Babe Allen pledged, “and I hope he will keep (family’s umpiring tradition) going.”


The Wilson Tobs, a charter summer collegiate baseball team in the Coastal Plain League, landed the Willis Hackney Memorial distinction for services to, support of and contributions to the game of baseball in the Wilson area in 2018.

The Tobs returned to winning ways last season, advancing to within one win of playing in the Petitt Cup championship series.

The franchise not only provides entertainment for Wilson fans, but also organizes youth camps, fall leagues and spring tournaments for high school teams. Collegiate teams from around the country are attracted to Fleming Stadium through promotion from the Tobs.

Greg Suire, Rick Holland and Mike Bell head the leadership group.

“Truthfully, the Tobs could have gotten the Willis Hackney Award in any of the organization’s 23 years in Wilson, but I’m happy to present this award to them for the first time,” said Wilson Times Sports Editor Paul Durham.


Chad Bean, now a junior right-handed pitcher at Fike High, posted eye-popping numbers in his sophomore season, thus claiming the Clint Faris Memorial Award as the top amateur baseball player in the Wilson community in 2018.

The Golden Demons advanced into the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs as Bean, projected to be the No. 3 starter, compiled a 9-1 record and three saves with a microscopic 0.86 earned run average. He registered 56 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings.

Bean was tabbed the Big East Conference Pitcher of the Year as Fike notched a 21-5 record.

The Gaylord Perry Amateur Pitching Award, established in 1984, went to hard-throwing right-hander Trent Fennell from Barton College of the NCAA Division II ranks.

Fennell started on the mound all four seasons with the Bulldogs and ended his career as the career (252)and single-season (99) record-holder in strikeouts. He earned first-team All-Conference Carolinas acclaim as a senior. He exited with a 17-17 record  and eight complete games.

Hailed as “a great student and a great citizen,” Fennell also received high academic and sportsmanship awards during his Bulldogs’ career.

The Dunn native is now pitching professionally after being drafted in the 24th round by the Colorado Rockies last June.

East Carolina University junior Bryant Packard, selected All-America by seven different sources last season, was honored with the Trot Nixon “Gamer” Award and was previously featured in The Wilson Times sports section.