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Mavs make the most of Smokies Stadium experience

ACHS seniors not only enjoyed a game at Smokies Stadium last week, but seniors were honored as well at the last home game of their high school career. (photo:Fred Strohl )
What do members of the Anderson County baseball team have in common with Javier Baez and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The answer is they have all played baseball at Smokies Stadium in Sevierville, home of the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League.

The Mavericks got their opportunity to play at what is considered one of the best Minor League stadiums in the nation Saturday, April 13 during a high school doubleheader. The Mavs put on an offensive-fireworks show as they defeated Claiborne County 11-6 after Sweetwater played Oneida in the opener.

AC Coach Cory Stooksbury quickly accepted the invitation to play when it was offered, remembering the thrill he had playing at Smokies Stadium when he was a Maverick a few years ago.

“When Coach Randy Miracle of Oneida called me to ask if we were interested, I jumped at it right away,” said Stooksbury. “I know how much it meant to me to play there when I was in high school and that was even more special since we played Clinton and won. I wanted our players to have the same opportunity of playing in a professional stadium.”

The atmosphere did not intimidate the Mavs as they banged out 15 hits on their way to victory.

“Before the game started, I took a couple of deep breaths and then went out and played the way I always try to play,” said Maverick Connor Tackett as he collected three hits, including a double and three RBI.

Senior Caleb Wilhoit was in awe as he took the field, but he didn’t let the excitement prevent him from getting serious as he drove home two runs with two hits.

“I’m a big Cubs fan and so playing on the same field where so many of the Cubs once played was very special to me,” Wilhoit said. “I wanted to play my best.”

Senior catcher Zach Webber, who recently signed a scholarship to attend and play for Johnson University, said he thought of the many Major League catchers – such as Molina -- who have squatted in that same position behind the batter’s box during the early parts their careers.

“I thought it was crazy that here I am playing in the same stadium where so many players I watch on TV once played,” Webber said. “It was cool.”

Senior Cole Foust took advantage of the Smokies Stadium opportunity at bat, in the outfield and on the mound. He collected two hits, drove in a run and pitched two innings to earn the victory, striking out two.

“It was awesome,” said Foust, who pitched two innings. “Getting those two strikeouts was the best part of a day filled with a whole lot of great things.”

Fellow pitchers Eli Varner and Preston Seiber also saw time on the mound as they recorded two and three strikeouts, respectively. Seiber drove home two runs.

Senior Andy Fox was impressed everything he experienced.

“It was unbelievable from the time we arrived until we left for home,” said Fox, who collected two hits. The facilities are incredible. I’ll never forget that day.”

Tyler Phillips hit safely twice for two RBI. Hunter Hartgrove’s double accounted for another AC hit.

Stooksbury said the experience of playing at Smokies Stadium is a great team builder and also increases his players’ motivation.

“I think our players realize that having the opportunity to play at Smokies Stadium is special and encourages them to work harder to be better ball players,” Stooksbury said. “The experience especially helps our younger players to want to work harder. I hope we continue to get the opportunities to play at Smokies Stadium.”