Good times around Snow Hill Hot Stove

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SNOW HILL — A still-growing Thanksgiving tradition continued in the Greene Central High cafeteria Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of major league celebrities were no-shows and excpressed their regrets, but the annual Snow Hill Post 94 Hot Stove League gathering followed its usual script in honoring the game of baseball.

Individuals from numerous walks of baseball life attended.

The session of come 90 minutes was filled with a meal that drew no complaints, old and new one-liners and bountiful baseball stories — many of them with a fictional twist.

One of the no-shows, Jerry Narron, the new bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was honored along with veteran major league scout Howard McCullough with Hot Stove Hall of Fame distinctions.

Narron is visiting his daughter in Israel and McCullough, who was present, is now associated with the Seattle Mariners.

Regardless of the direction of attention, it usually funneled back to James “Rabbit” Fulghum, retired baseball coaching legend, Snow Hill Hot Stover founder and Wednesday’s master of ceremonies.

Also as usual, Fulghum drew praise from those with speaking opportunities.

Also unable to attend was current Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Chris Hatcher.

Fulghum thanked all in the audience and quipped: “I’ve probably got a few enemies here; thank you for coming.”

Both Narron, whose award was accepted by his cousin, Richard “Rooster” Narron, a member of the East Carolina University Hall of Fame; and McCullough possess major league backgrounds expanding 30 years.

Jerry Narron was Snow Hill’s first American Legion catcher in 1973. He was a catcher in the majors for the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and California Angels. Narron became the Yankees starting catcher with the death of Thurman Munson.

He managed the Texas Rangers (2001-02) and Cincinnati Reds (2005-07) and served as either third-base or bench coach for the Baltimore Orioles, Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. Narron also coached the Israel National Team. He’s a product of Goldsboro High.

McCullough, a Rocky Mount product, was lauded for his lifetime commitment to baseball.

Fulghum credited McCullough as being an innovative baseball mind but joked: “He thought of all this stuff and counted on me to get it done.”

McCullough grinned and nodded his head in agreement.

He starred at Rocky Mount High and with the Rocky Mount Legion. He attended Louisburg College and East Carolina University. His coaching stops include Oxford Webb High, ECU assistant coach and University of North Carolina pitching coach. McCullough scouted for the Red Sox and Diamondbacks before joining the Mariners.

“He’s got a great baseball mind and is a friend to all,” Fulghum declared.

Fulghum also hailed the loyalty, integrity and commitment to baseball of Jerry Narron and McCullough.

The occasion included recognizing retired coaches, former professional players, current college and high school baseball coaches and even umpiries.

The turnout heard from head junior college coaches Tommy Eason of Pitt, Blake Herring of Louisburg and C.C. Tillman of Lenoir. Eason and Herring played at Greene Central, while Tillman hails from nearby North Lenoir.

Fulghum quipped that veteran umpires Jerry Johnson and Ricky Crumpler are scheduled for eye surgery sometime before the advent of spring baseball.

He then good-naturedly denied Johnson an opportunity to reply.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Fulghum said.