One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 16, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
Over the weekend UNC Pembroke Baseball team won three games over Columbus State University who was ranked #8 in the nation for NCAA Division II schools. Those three wins improved the 2015 UNC Pembroke baseball team to a 10-0 record and they surely will be nationally ranked in the next poll.
The baseball coach at Pembroke is Paul O’Neil and this marks his 15th season as the Head Coach. The Braves have appeared in the national poll in 11 seasons of O’Neil’s 14-year career in Pembroke as well and this year will make it 12 out of 15.
I was able to hire Paul back in 2000 from Shenandoah College in Winchester, VA. Paul had been the Head Coach there for 4 seasons. Paul has done a tremendous job at Pembroke and he has posted 10 consecutive 30 win seasons for the Braves. Paul O’Neil is successful as a coach because of his unbelievable work ethic in recruiting, fundraising, and on the field coaching. He puts in tremendously long hours and it pays off on the results he gets on the field.
He went to college at Appalachian State University and met his wife Jackie there. Paul and his wife, Jackie, celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary in August and are the proud parents of three daughters, Katie (15), Rachel (12) and Kellie (7). The family currently resides in Lumberton.
Jackie O’Neil owns a fantastic hand crafted jewelry store in Lumberton located on 518 Liberty Hill Road. If you are looking for a unique jewelry gift visit Jackie’s website and make an online purchase. Picture of Jackie below
Prior to coming to Pembroke Paul began his coaching career at Montreat College where he served as the assistant head coach of the Cavaliers for two seasons (1993-94) before making the move to the Division I level as an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth (VCU). While in Richmond, he was charged with the development of the hitting and defense for the Rams and played a key role in VCU’s run to a 34-22 record in 1996 that also included a third-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association final standings.
O’Neil went to Shenandoah in 1996 and inherited a 14-23 team and quickly transformed the Hornets into a contender. While at the helm of the program, O’Neil’s Shenandoah ball clubs shattered 35 school records, six of which still hold true today.
At Shenandoah Paul hired as an assistant coach that is still one of his friends today by the name of Ray Hedrick. Ray followed Paul to UNCP and the stories those two had together at Shenandoah and UNCP are legendary. Ray is currently the Head Baseball Coach at Randolph-Macon University in Ashland, VA
Hedrick served as Paul’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator before his return to his Alma Mater Randolph Macon in the fall of 2004. Prior to his hiring as Randolph-Macon’s head coach, Hedrick was the top assistant to Paul O’Neil at Division II UNC Pembroke (2001-2004) and at Division III Shenandoah University (1998-2000). At both institutions, Hedrick helped O’Neil resurrect programs that had not tasted success in years into national powers.
The Friend-PAUL O’NEIL-with his family
The Friend of the Friend-RAY HEDRICK
Paul O’Neil and Ray Hedrick Stories
Paul and Ray have had their share of interesting moments in their friendship. It always seemed sometimes the two of them could not get out of each other’s way.
Ray came to UNCP in 2000 even though we did not have a job for him at the current time. He was in essence a volunteer but we were working on getting him something on a part-time basis but it had not officially started yet. Ray and Paul were always looking for a way to improve the appearance of the baseball field at UNCP. The two of them had come up with a masterful way to take the grass cutting machinery available at UNC Pembroke and try to make their field look like a MLB facility.
One such method was to cut the grass with a riding lawn mower than drag a carpet from the back of the mower over the freshly cut grass. This technique according to O’Neil and Hedrick would produce a striped field appearance. They had recruits coming in on a Saturday and Ray procured a riding mower from facilities after hours to get the field ready for the visit. Ray Hedrick began to cut the grass right before dusk and went ahead and turned on all the field lights for his Friday evening chore.
When you have coaching transition sometimes you find out that inventory of items is not what it is supposed to be. That was the case with UNCP Baseball in 2000. I found out we only had one set of keys for all the areas on the baseball field including dugout storage room, field lights, and scoreboard access.
Ray Hedrick had all of those keys with him on the lawnmower this particular Friday night. Ray at this very moment still was not employed at UNCP he was just a volunteer who had borrowed a university lawnmower that unfortunately ran over ever key the baseball team owned. Those keys put up a good fight but they were no match for the rotary blade. Thankfully the carpet dragging behind the riding lawn mower protected Ray from the flying metal shrapnel. What it didn’t do is allow a Ray a method to turn off the lights to the field, or get back into the building, or lock up the field and lawn mower. It triggered a call to campus police that triggered a call to me on what was a non-employee doing riding a UNCP lawnmower? I had to take a chewing out from the Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs on my new coaches. Ray and Paul were both very apologetic. The good news is they got the recruits despite them asking why the field lights were on during the day of their visit.
The best story involving these two coaching friends occurred at Shenandoah. In December of 1996 they decided that a good fundraiser for the baseball team was to sell Christmas Trees. This adventure involved them purchasing trees from a nursery, transporting the trees to campus, scheduling their players as salespeople, and of course marketing their endeavor to the community.
The business plan had some room for improvement their sales location was located on campus in an area with very little lighting. Once it got dark no one knew they were selling trees. The limited hours according to Ray were killing sales and they needed a better marketing plan. Ray convinced Paul to get some lights and string them up around their tree lot located right on campus adjacent to the athletic facility. If you know Paul he is frugal and has a certain “Do It Yourself” attitude about him.
Paul was off to the local Lowe’s to purchase 14 gauge-15 amp romexwire. Paul was going to wire this lighting project himself. He attached 60 watt light bulbs at various intervals and placed a plug at one end of his 100 foot plus wiring project. The problem was that there was no outdoor outlet anywhere near their tree lot. They found a bunch of 100 foot extension cords and placed it outside of a window of Paul’s Office.
The first night to test out the tree lot lights also included a Shenandoah Basketball game on campus inside the arena where Paul’s office was located. Ray told Paul to go inside and plug-in the lights. Their plan was to get the attention of everybody attending the game as they entered the arena by seeing such a brightly lit tree lot.
Paul got to his office and opened the window, grabbed his 300 feet of extension cords attached to his 100 feet of makeshift light fixtures and plugged her in. His wiring had overextended the capacity of the receptacle and it jolted Paul to his backside. In addition to the electrical shock Paul experienced he also was dealing with getting his wits about him in total darkness. It just wasn’t Paul’s Office that was dark it was the entire arena. Ray kept shouting to Paul plug in the lights it still is dark. Paul was crawling on the floor mumbling to himself Ray you are so right about it being dark. He was frantically trying to find his way out of his office when campus police came along with a flashlight to help him out darkened and shocked state. After a few minutes a campus electrician had restored power back to the building.
All future tree sales were done during daylight hours.