Baseball titles and flying with the Wolfpack were nice, but Brinkley Wagstaff says he is content now to stay close to home, family and lawn
Q: Your career path has taken many interesting twists and turns, leading you back home, which is what you wanted. But all of the jobs, though each very different, have connections - someway or another - to sports – how were you able to manage that?
“I have lived in Wendell since I was in third grade. My dad was with the state highway patrol and we moved here because of his job. We first lived on Cypress Street, but we eventually moved to Lakewood Drive, where my dad still lives to this day. When I graduated from Vaiden Whitley High School, I attended Chowan Junior College but I had no idea what I wanted to be so I took a year off and worked at Britt’s Grocery Store on Main Street but I eventually went back to school and went to Atlantic Christian, now Barton. I majored in health and physical education because I wanted to coach. Back then, to coach, you also had to teach. My first teaching job was at West Cary Middle School.”
Q: Why did you want to coach? Did you play sports in high school? Was there a coach who inspired you?
“In high school, I played football, baseball and basketball. In my senior year, I had Coach Dick Knox. He was the one who inspired me to go to Atlantic Christian.”
Q: What was it about Knox that made an impression on you?
“What stood out with me was how he spoke about discipline. With my dad being in the highway patrol, and then having Coach Knox, I learned pretty early the importance of self-discipline, and how important it is to be well-organized. When I was thinking about what to do with my life, he sat down with me and talked, and we stayed in touch for a long time. It’s funny, but he coached me and then I went on to coach his son in middle school. And when I coached at Broughton (High) and we won the state tournament in baseball, he just happened to be one of the ones there handing out the trophies, so that was neat too.”
Q: You won the state tournament?
After teaching at the middle school, I went to Garner High, and they are all about baseball at Garner. We won the state championship there and later I went to Broughton, and we won the state championship there as well. People told me it would be a different world at Broughton but I enjoyed it there. All total, I coached for 14 years. I then saw the opportunity to move up and work at the collegiate level. I went on to North Carolina State and became the assistant athletic director in charge of the athletic facilities.”
Q: But you were having such great success as a coach – why give that up?
“I thought, well, I started in high school, now is the chance to move up and be around college sports.”
Q: Did you coach at State?
“No, but I was in charge of the game operations for all of the athletic teams and got to meet some great people and just experience some interesting things I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I got the chance to fly with the football team to some games. I was there when Kay Yow, Jim Valvano, and Dick Sheridan was there. We were also in charge of the concerts (at Carter-Finley). It was just a tremendous learning experience.”
Q: But then you came full-circle and ended up in Wendell as the town’s parks and recreation director.
I wanted to work closer to home, to be closer to my parents and my kids, Katie and Joe. My mom has since passed away but my dad is still here and my brother and sister. I have been here 12 years.”
Q: And before that, weren’t you a constant face on the town’s parks and rec scene?
“I coached, and I was on the parks and recreation commission.”
Q: You have met so many people over the years – who have been a couple who have left an impression on you?
“There are so many and it is hard to pick but Ed Morrell is a prince of a fellow. I met him playing softball. He was with the Methodists and I played on the Presbyterian team. He is just a genuine person who loves Wendell, and he is a hard worker. I also got a chance, when I was at State, to meet Sarge Frye – he was the groundskeeper at the University of South Carolina. The first time I met him, I bet we talked for three hours – just a unique guy – later, they named the baseball field after him.”
Q: So what interests you that is not sports-related? Any hobbies?
“I love working in my yard. I just like being at home, cutting my grass. My wife will ask me, ‘Don’t you want to go anywhere? Do anything?’” I am content to be at home.”
Q: Provide a little-known fact about yourself.
“When I was in college and was home during the summer, I deejayed at the local radio station, WETC. I had a beach music show – Katie B’s Beach Blast, named after my daughter. They didn’t think Brinkley Wagstaff was a good deejay name so I changed it to Bobby Savoy (bat boy from the novel, and later movie, The Natural). That was back when you had records and albums. I would have the whole place to myself – only one in there, just playing beach music – it was fun.”
Correspondent Dena Coward