Community Profile

Boone Bigfoots Baseball is on the Mound. So, Batter Up!

By Steve York

“If you build it, he will come.” That ethereal whisper, which drove the story line in Kevin Costner’s classic 1989 feel-good baseball movie, Field Of Dreams, still echoes in the hearts of movie fans. Its meaning remained a mystery until near the end. That was when it was revealed that the “he”referenced in that haunting entreat turned out to be Ray Kinsella’s (Keven Costner) late father, John Kinsella. John had come back from Heaven as a young man to play a bucket list baseball game with long-departed major league greats such as Smoky Joe Woods, Mel Ott, Gil Hodges and the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson. One of the film’s most emotional moments came after the game when Ray called out to his father’s apparition, “Hey, Dad, wanna have a catch?” That scene brought chills and a few nostalgic tears to the eyes of anyone who’s ever had a catch with their dad.

Then, in sharp contrast, there’s that other 1989 comedy classic, Major League. One of the most memorable moments in that film was when Charlie Sheen’s character, Ricky Vaughn, was called out to relieve his Cleveland Indians’ pitcher in a tight 9th inning. As Vaughn—nicknamed “Wild Thing” for his oft wild and blazing fastballs—strolled out onto the field, the stadium’s PA system started blasting the 1966 rock hit song, “Wild Thing,” by the Troggs. And, right on cue, his wildly exuberant Cleveland Indians fans leapt to their feet and sang along with a tumultuous, bleacher-rumbling roar. That scene also brought a few chills, not to mention, wild laughter.

Whether via a sentimental story line that tugs at the heartstrings, or a comedic farce that keeps us in stitches, one thing both films had in common is how they captured America’s nearly two-century love affair with our nation’s original “favorite pastime,” BASEBALL. As Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) proclaimed in Field of Dreams, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.” And that sentiment is why blockbuster films such as The Natural, Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, Moneyball and even the 1946 film, The Pride of The Yankees, have all reaffirmed that same love affair. Those films and more always remind us how much baseball and America’s sandlot spirit are inextricably stitched together.

And now that glorious spirit is headed home to the High Country this summer as BOONE BIGFOOTS BASEBALL hits App State’s Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium from early June through mid-August. With it comes an A-team lineup of sizzling summer baseball fun, excitement, hot dogs, fireworks, fanfare plus live entertainment. To add an extra kick to the spectacle, on July 24 fans will be treated to celebrity guest appearances by the two big league stars of the current Netflix hit series Cobra Kai

But wait a minute! Isn’t Cobra Kai about karate? How do karate and baseball fit together? In this case, like a glove. Cobra Kai is the modern-day Netflix series follow-up to the classic 1984 film, The Karate Kid. The two stars of the series are, once again, Ralph “Daniel Russo” Macchio and William (Billy) “Johnny Lawrence” Zabka. And those same movie all-stars will be here to help celebrate Boone Bigfoots Baseball. They will even be throwing out the first pitch on July 24—Cobra Kai Night. So, how did these two sporting worlds line up together? Well, that would be via the inspiration of one Bob Wilson of Deep Gap, North Carolina. 

Yes, baseball fans, with support from App State’s Director of Athletics, Doug Gillin, and Executive Associate Athletics Director Jonathan Reeder, Bob Wilson—who just happens to be producer of Cobra Kai—has teamed up with Boone Bigfoots’ Ryan Smoot/Head Coach, Matt Anders/Assistant Coach, Andrew Papp/Operations, Baylee Morton/Communications Director, Tanner Graeber/Supervising Partner and Ryan Berg/Creative Director. Together this collaboration is bringing exciting Minor League baseball to Beaver Field.

Wilson was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a 35-year veteran film and television director/producer. His more recent credits include Cobra Kai, the USA/Netflix Queen of the South, and the Lifetime Channel Drop Dead Diva series. Wilson is also a self-proclaimed baseball fanatic. He, his wife and their two Australian Shepherds moved to the cool mountain air of Deep Gap a couple years ago while vacationing up from Atlanta, Georgia, where Cobra Kai is headquartered and filmed. He fell in love with these mountains, the Boone area, App State and everything our western highlands have to offer, including our strong spirit of competitive outdoor athletics.

In the midst of a temporary COVID-related Cobra Kai filming hiatus and a lull in live, outdoor sporting events, it occurred to Wilson that a perfect way to jumpstart local spirits would be to revive the age-old American tradition of summer baseball right here in the High County. So he knocked the dirt off his cleats and took a swing at creating a partnership with App State that could generate big excitement for the community while also being a direct fundraising opportunity for the school. The result? A Home Run!  His Boone Bigfoots baseball dream is now a reality with all profits from ticket and merchandise sales going back into the community through a donation to the App State Athletic Scholarship Fund. 

Why the Boone Bigfoots name? “From the beginning we wanted a mascot that is family friendly, fun, and relevant to the lore of the Boone community,” notes Tanner Graeber, Wilson’s supervising partner. “We kicked around hundreds of possibilities throughout the early months of the pandemic, but ultimately circled back to an absolute classic. What we landed on was BIG-E the Bigfoot! He’s BIG, friendly, illusive, and ready for some summer baseball. Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out…because Bigfoot sightings will be up!” adds Graeber. 

“We’ve joined the newly created Textile League,” Wilson explains. “The Boone Bigfoots, a 501(c3) non-profit baseball organization, is part of a college level independent summer Wood Bat League with teams playing in Minor League and college stadiums out of North Carolina and Virginia. This League is run by world baseball veteran, Greg Suire, and welcomes college eligible athletes from all over the country.” 

 Bigfoots coach, Ryan Smoot, adds, “I’m excited to work with Bob in bringing summer collegiate baseball to Boone. I look forward to joining him, Andrew, Baylee, Tanner, and anyone else in building an organization that is not just competitive on the field, but an asset to the community.”

 “We are currently seeking host families that are able to join our team in housing players for the run of the season this summer,” Wilson notes. “We are also seeking sponsor partnerships with corporations, local businesses and personal donors. Anyone interested in either or both support opportunities can contact Operations Manager, Andrew Papp, at bigfootsbaseball@gmail.com.”

  Ticket sales, the full season lineup, team players, the Bigfoots story and COVID-related notices are all available online at www.bigfootsbaseball.com. You can also keep up with the team on Facebook and other social media. Spoiler Alert! The first game of the season, Saturday, May 29, features Charlotte’s award-wining, hit recording Country/Rock band, Diamonds and Whiskey. All that’s left to say now is, “PLAY BALL!”

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