Published: 12:00 AM, Fri Apr 20, 2012
Vaughan: Cape Fear names baseball field in honor of late Carter Smith
There was a time when I hated seeing the late Carter Smith walking toward me.
I always knew what the subject was going to be when he started talking. Lights for high school baseball fields.
To say Smith was passionate about the topic was an understatement.
Tonight, in ceremonies at the Cape Fear High School baseball field, Smith will be honored for that commitment, and for his overall support of the athletic program at Cape Fear High School.
Around 6:30 p.m., between the junior varsity and varsity baseball games with Jack Britt, Cape Fear will name its baseball field in Smith's honor. It's a rare occasion, because if you check around Cumberland County at athletic facilities that bear the names of people, just about all of them are named after those who worked for the county schools, either as coaches or school administrators.
Smith was never employed by the county schools, but he worked tirelessly on their behalf during his life, especially in the area of getting those baseball fields lighted.
"Every opportunity he had to talk about lighting not only Cape Fear but other fields in Cumberland County, he took,'' said former Cape Fear baseball coach Terry Jeffery. "He'd speak to a politician or a board member.''
Media too, as I can definitely attest.
What bothered Smith was the fact county baseball teams had to play all day games at home, making it difficult for parents and friends to come and watch. It also bothered him that schools in surrounding counties, some of them smaller than the county schools, already had lights.
"It was a question of equality,'' said Wendell Smith, Carter's son, who now coaches the Cape Fear baseball team. "It was an opportunity for parents to see their children play.''
And it was also a matter of common sense. Wendell Smith said his dad worked with Elmer Arnette, the late director of the county recreation and parks department.
"Elmer Arnette realized the county needed additional fields,'' Wendell Smith said. "Why not use the ones we've got? Just put lights on the (high school) fields and use them in the summer as well.''
Wendell Smith is convinced his father's crusade also helped pave the way for lighted fields for softball and has spread to lighting middle school fields.
"It was a smart use of county resources,'' he said. "And parents got a chance to see their kids play.''
Cape Fear principal Lee Spruill said naming the baseball field for Smith is also a way of honoring his efforts to help the school in other sports.
"He's had an integral part in getting money donated, not just for baseball,'' Spruill said. "He did a lot of work for the entire program.''
Spruill said supporters like Smith are a rare breed. "He wanted to do whatever he could to make Cape Fear athletics better, especially baseball,'' Spruill said.
I'm sure Cape Fear will unveil a sign with Carter Smith's name on it to recognize tonight's naming ceremony. I don't know what words his family had put on his grave marker, or what words will be on the sign, but if these aren't there, they should be added.
"Let there be light.''
Carter Smith helped it happen for all of Cumberland County, and every high school baseball player, coach and fan owes him a debt of gratitude.
Scholastic sports editor Earl Vaughan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3519.