Wildcat Diamond Club hosts Auburn coach Butch Thompson at Lead Off Banquet in Columbiana

Published 8:47 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – Shelby County baseball players, coaches and parents got the chance to hear from one of the most successful coaches in college baseball as Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson spoke at the Wildcat Diamond Club’s annual Lead Off Banquet on Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Shelby County Arts Council’s Grande Hall.

Shelby County varsity baseball coach Cory Hamrick deemed the event a massive success and credited his booster club team of Leah Pennington, Alice Fox and Stacy and Clay Aderholt for helping organize it.

“That group was dynamic in putting the entire event together, and it was the most successful that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve been a part of quite a few of them,” Hamrick said.

The banquet was a full-circle moment for Hamrick who was recruited to play at Birmingham Southern by Thompson, who was the recruiting coordinator there at the time. They are still friends and talk to each other regularly.

Hamrick used that connection to ask Thompson to speak at the banquet but didn’t fully expect him to agree to come since Thompson is preparing for Auburn’s upcoming season. To Hamrick’s surprise, Thompson agreed to travel to Columbiana to speak.

Hamrick was grateful for him to give the community a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host an SEC baseball coach in their hometown.

“Just the opportunity that was afforded to this community for Butch Thompson to take five hours of his life and give and pour into this community it shows how important baseball is here at Shelby County High School,” Hamrick said. “It also shows the community that this is a place where even the greatest coaches that are out there, they’ll even take their time to come here.”

Thompson opened his time by showing a hype video with the best moments from Auburn baseball in recent years. After he introduced himself, he shifted the focus by telling the audience that for every one of those moments, there was a negative moment that happened right before then, which he said was just part of the game.

“It was really neat how he wasn’t trying to bring the crowd down or anything, that he was just trying to let everybody know the ebb and flow of baseball,” Hamrick said. “With every high, there’s always a low, and it’s about kind of maintaining that even keel, and he broke it down in the segment.”

Thompson also took time to directly address the Wildcats players in attendance, telling them not to make excuses and enjoy every day of the baseball season while it lasts by not allowing themselves to be sad.

“I’ve been a part of other programs where we’ve done these,” Hamrick said. “And I feel like this was the most impactful because the message, although he only spoke for 40 or 45 minutes, it was very concise, very direct to the players. It was so impactful for the players because his message was so personal.”

Hamrick has seen Thompson’s ability to communicate and inspire for the past 20 years and he believes the passion and conviction behind Thompson’s words are the reasons why the Auburn coach is an effective speaker.

“He has a unique ability of being able to have people hang on every word that he says because of his passion and what he says,” Hamrick said of Thompson. “And you can feel his personal belief in the words that he speaks because he believes in everything he says. And so, with that passion, if you believe in what you’re saying, you can get others to believe in your words.”

With Shelby County baseball’s opening day of Feb. 17 rapidly approaching, Hamrick believes this was the right message at the right time to both inspire the players going into the season and give him and the coaching staff talking points that they can reiterate throughout the season.

“I think it was a perfect time to hear the message,” Hamrick said. “And that’s what I told him afterwards, ‘You gave us a message and you gave this community a message and this program, a message that was ideal for the time that it was given, leading into the season with high expectations for 2024 for Shelby County Baseball.’”