WELDON — On Sept. 25, Duriel Smith posted a special message to his Instagram account, one that bounced and fluttered and skipped with nervous energy before committing to its lede — that he would no longer be the baseball coach at Weldon High School.
“I will be stepping down from, uh, coaching. Basically, this is going to be it for me,” Smith remarked. “Kind of stepping away. Stepping away to, you know, just focus on being Dad.”
In many ways, the video was an offseason Valley curveball, a true 10-6 rope that parceled due shock across the plate of Halifax County prep athletics.
But it shouldn’t have been a surprise, in all honesty — because the ol’ ball coach has always done things his own way.
Parts and pieces
Back in December 2018, as Smith considered taking the post, more than a few folks proclaiming to be in the know cautioned him about the rigors of the job, explaining that, no matter what, his version of the Navy Blues would perform exactly like so many others had — as a bumbling, always-and-forever-fumbling Valley sendup of Walter Matthau’s Bad News Bears.
Save his plan, of course, for stirring the Charger nine.
“Multiple guys were able to play multiple positions,” Smith said of his club, which vanquished 7 of 8 opponents after dropping an I-told-you-so season-opener to rival Northwest Halifax on March 12. “I think the major addition to that team was Ysad “Woody” Sykes … when he came in, he added a presence to that team, and also too, he added another bat to that team that we needed in that lineup.”
And so the Bolts, made over with all the hesitation of a flash flood, charged on, with Sykes, Andre Stewart Jr., Jalonte Stanley and James Williams Jr. sacrificing statistics for the greater good, and with shortstop Lorenzo Walters and second baseman Conye Davis sorting any and all mail struck to the middle infield.
It was a production Smith dubbed Full Weldon, and my, did it ever play to rave reviews.
Rings and things
May 4, 2019.
The Chargers turned Tar Roanoke 1A Conference champions for the only time in school history that day, morphing Diamond 1 at the Northampton County Recreation Department and Cultural & Wellness Center into a carousel of run production — working pitch counts, drawing walks and running for glory on Smith’s perpetual green light.
In many ways, it was a dirt-churning symphony.
“That was a special day with a special group of kids,” Smith said, recalling his team’s 23-6 dismantling of rival Northampton County. “And that’s something that they’ll never forget … even to this day I tell them, that’s something nobody can take away from you.”
Nor can anyone dispute the foundation upon which the work was staged, drawn up as a family to halt a diamond downturn that yielded just five victories since 2010.
Full Weldon, indeed — as evidenced by the team’s 7-3 overall mark and second-round appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoffs.
All’s well that never stops
And so Duriel Smith saunters from the Weldon dugout, leaving it in far better form than he found it — to be, in his words, Dad.
“I’ve got a 13-year-old, you know, that’s going on 14, that’s itching to play football again, just like every other kid in the Roanoke Valley,” Smith said of his son. “I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter that’s smart as a whip, you know, and she’s just full of life.”
Which brings to mind a thought — who better to help them across all pursuits than Pops, the fun-loving, free-wheeling conductor of an interchangeable approach to Weldon baseball, one that rattled annual convention and developed winners from an endless cycle of woe.
To that end, cheers.