SILER CITY — About a year and a half ago, an American Legion baseball team in Chatham County was nothing more than a dream. But with the help of several local coaches, including John Will Headen, that dream has finally become a reality this summer.
Chatham Post 292 is made up of players from across Chatham County’s six high schools, as well as players from Lee County, Grace Christian, Southeast Guilford and North Moore. Through the team’s first eight games, they are 2-6. But this inaugural season isn’t just about wins and losses. Headen says it’s about giving local kids the opportunity to play high-level baseball and represent the area.
"I just thought we were doing our kids an injustice by not providing something for them,” Headen said. “I’ve been blown away with the positive community support we’ve received. There’s been a big outpouring of support from our local businesses and some individuals.”
The biggest hurdle Headen and the rest of the team’s organizers had to jump initially was funding. Headen said he thought they might be able to get away with only raising $6,000 to $7,000 dollars, but that wasn’t close to the number they actually needed.
Headen — who coaches the team along with Will Felder and Carson Rickman — told the News & Record the team quickly worked with local schools and coaches to set up their home site at Jordan-Matthews. Since then, donations from local individuals and companies like Rogers Auctioneers Inc. and Marsh Auto Parts in Siler City. The National Guard also donated $2,500 to have their names featured on the back of the team’s jerseys.
In total, Chatham Post 292 has raised about $13,000 for the team, which goes toward uniforms, travel, equipment, concessions, a gate keeper and other things. Headen said the plan has always been to provide an avenue for local athletes to play baseball for free.
“It takes a lot of money to put all this on,” Headen said. “We don't want our young men to have to pay to play. We think that creates poor baseball. These guys haven't paid a dime to play. They just come out and represent our county.”
Through their first eight games, Chatham Post 292’s top batters have been Grace Christian’s Brandon Crabtree (.471 average, eight hits, two HRs, eight RBI) and Jordan-Matthews’ Jackson Headen (.440, 11 hits, eight RBI). Crabtree is an N.C. State commit who led Grace Christian in batting average (.613), hits (46), RBI (53) and home runs (13). Headen, meanwhile, hit .361 with 22 hits, 10 RBI and 21 runs scored as a senior with the Jets this spring.
Post 292 also has a pair of all-state selections in Chatham Central’s Matthew Murchison and Anthony Lopossay. Murchison, a rising junior, is hitting .364 with eight hits and five RBI so far this summer, while Lopossay has a 2.68 ERA and 15 strikeouts through 15.2 innings as the team’s top pitcher.
Chatham Post 292 will play three more games, including a matchup with Fuquay-Varina Post 116 on Saturday, before the start of conference play on June 22, when they have to narrow down their roster to 18 players. From there, the top four teams in each league will make the state playoffs, which start in July.
Regardless of how Post 292 plays the rest of the season, Headen said the first few weeks of the summer have already brought some of the most fun baseball he’s watched in some time. One of the highlights of the early season came when the team traveled to play Catawba earlier in the year.
"We went to Catawba the other day and those guys looked at us like we were just a bunch of hicks coming in to play ball,” Headen said. “We started taking batting practice and the ball starts leaving their park, and all of a sudden their guys started standing up and watched us take B.P."
Headen said the team is still looking for some help the rest of the season. They can always use more donations, and they’re also looking for buses to help with transportation to and from games.
The hope, Headen said, is people can use the Post 292 team as something to rally around in the future.
“A real big part of it, for me, is that we can bring people together,” Headen said. “There's been a lot of division in the county, and anything that can bring people together on some common ground is great. Baseball has done that for centuries. If we can do that in Chatham County, that's a big plus. It helps our entire county."