PEELER: Avent Proud to Set School Mark for Wins
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – Just before former NC State baseball coach Sam Esposito retired in 1987, his assistant coach and successor, Ray Tanner, presented his mentor with a plaque commemorating the fact that Esposito had won more games than any other baseball coach in school history. Tanner also gave him a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
When Esposito went home that afternoon, he left the plaque on the dugout bench, but took the beer with him. Coach wasn't exactly one for sentimentality, but he did enjoy a cold brew every now and then.
Sunday afternoon, current head coach Elliott Avent passed Esposito on the all-time wins lists, earning his 514th career win at the school with a 21-0 victory over Towson State. Heading into this weekend's important ACC series with Florida State, which starts Friday at 7 p.m. in Tallahassee, Fla., Avent owns a 514-329 record in his 14 seasons at NC State.
Earlier this week, NC State assistant media relations director Bruce Winkworth honored Avent's achievement by presenting the coach with a 12-pack of PBR, a bit of beer inflation since Esposito retired nearly a quarter-century ago.
"We just skipped the whole plaque thing," Avent said, smiling. "That was fine with me, too."
Avent says he doesn't need anything to commemorate his achievement. Just coming to work every day at Doak Field at Dail Park is his biggest reward.
"When I came to NC State 14 years ago, it was a dream come true," he said earlier this week. "Being the baseball coach at the place I loved since I was 5 years old was the best thing I could imagine. I never once thought about setting the school record for career wins. My thrill was being the coach at NC State."
In 21 years, from 1967-87, Esposito compiled a 513-253 mark. He also won four ACC Championships, made six NCAA Championship appearances and took his 1968 team to the school's only appearance in the College World Series.
"I have some mixed emotions about passing him, because Coach Esposito will always be the baseball coach at NC State," Avent said. "He was the benchmark here – he won a lot of games and a lot of championships.
"I know I have won a lot of games, but we haven't won any championships. That is something we have to get back to doing. But I am proud of the record, proud of the school and proud of the many accomplishments that we have had here. To be a part of the legacy that guys like Chick Doak, Vic Sorrell, Sam Esposito and Ray Tanner established means the world to me."
Avent was reminded of some of his accomplishments late Sunday when he began to receive congratulatory e-mails, text messages and phone calls from his former players. The first to contact him was former All-America relief pitcher Joey Devine, now with the Oakland As.
"That was the most special thing about it, hearing from all those players and former coaches congratulating me," Avent said. "They were all happy to be a part of it. I think that is the greatest thing about setting the record."
Well that, and the 12-pack.
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.