A friend of a friend-Jacob Saulnier and Paul Hodges-April 20


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 April 20, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

In today’s world mobility and transition is a component of almost every career path. In college coaching that has long been the case. In the sport of college football moving from university to university is quite common especially for assistant coaches. When UNC Pembroke started football I got to met a lot of coaches and some of them today are still friends. One of those men is Steve Saulnier who has a special son named Jacob Saulnier who I consider a friend of our family.

The Saulnier family moved to Lumberton, NC in 2006 so Steve could begin his new job at UNC Pembroke. Like all families there are lots of responsibilities outside of the job that need to be addressed. One simple but important family task is getting children to school.

When Steve’s family came to Lumberton they moved into the neighborhood called Tanglewood and did not live too far from us. Our youngest son Mack and Jacob are in the same grade. When it came time for both boys to attend junior high in 2009 I became the morning car pool driver for Mack, Jacob, and and another special young man named Raleigh Forrest. This became a ritual until they got to high school and got their license. In those three to four years of being the car pool driver I learned a lot about the integrity, character, perseverance, and discipline of Jacob Saulnier.

Picture below Jacob and his dad.

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I have met the children of lots of people. I can say unequivocally that the children of Steve and Dianna Saulnier are the most polite children ever. Jacob also has some special passions in life that his family have instilled in him. He has a relationship with Christ, loves everything about Ohio State, and is fanatical about baseball.

(l-r) Jacob and Hanna Saulnier in 2012

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In the summer of 2014 Jacob Saulnier had to move to Pensacola,FL and enroll at Tate High School for his senior year. His dad accepted a job to become the assistant football coach at University of West Florida to begin what he did at UNC Pembroke which is to start a football team from scratch. Steve assisted Pete Shinnick with that task at UNCP and in 2016 UWF will play their first game.

Moving in your senior year is not easy. Joining a high school athletic team in your last year of high school is not easy. Jacob Saulnier has excelled this year. He currently is on a team that is one of the best in state of Florida boasting a 21-4 W-L Record. Jacob has contributed playing first base and hitting .346. He has been voted the area player of the week and received the Tate HS Travis Fryman Scholarship this week. He has put in countless hours working out and lifting weights to get in this position of success. It appears that all of this will pay dividends when Jacob becomes part of the UWF baseball team.

Jacob has had some help along the way including his Lumberton HS Baseball Coach Paul Hodges.

The Friend – JACOB SAULNIER-photo

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The Friend of the Friend- PAUL HODGES with wife Kerry

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Paul Hodges fouling off life’s curve balls

A coach/teacher takes great pride in seeing a player or student persist and succeed. If their was ever a man that knows about persevering it is Paul Hodges.

Paul is from Kentucky but college baseball brought him to Pembroke State University when he was recruited to play for Danny Davis. His decision to come to Pembroke has altered his life in many ways but he has also inspired a lots of people with the characteristics that his former player Jacob Saulnier demonstrated.  Paul Hodges demonstrated what persistence is when he went through an eight year battle with medical challenges faced by both his wife and daughter.

Paul married his college sweetheart Angie Batten a former 1986 Miss Pembroke State Beauty Pageant winner. They had a daughter who was born in 1992 named Morgan that had special needs. He became the baseball coach at Lumberton High School and over time the challenges of coaching became miniscule to what life offered up to his family. In the early 2000’s his wife Angela still in her thirties was diagnosed with cancer. She fought valiantly but lost her battle on February 20, 2008. Paul was devastated but he had responsibilities to his daughter Morgan who had a number of medical issues also. Morgan died at the age of 20 in 2013 leaving Paul without a family. He was a man who had been thru a lot but even during that time he was not a complainer he just kept plugging along.

After his daughter passed away he became reconnected with a friend of his former wife at Pembroke named Kerry Kiesel. Kerry was a cheerleader at Pembroke State and was going thru a transition in her life also. In the summer of 2014 the two of them got married.

Jacob Saulnier learned a lot from Paul Hodges on and off the ball field. The biggest lesson might have been no matter what curve balls life throws at you (even if you two strikes) just keep swinging. Keep fouling off the bad pitches. Eventually life will give you a pitch you can hit and put in play.

For Jacob when his pitch came he delivered a home run based on the success he is having in his senior year at Taft HS.

For Coach Paul Hodges the pitch he waited on was able to deliver to him a wife and a family.

Happy for both of them.

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