Johnny Meadows loves the game of baseball so much that he has his own baseball field in the front yard of his 100-acre Mooresville farm, complete with a grass infield and two dugouts.While he has his own “home field,” he spends most of his time coaching on other baseball diamonds; he is the head coach of the American Legion 537 senior team, the Mooresville Legends’ travel girls’ 8U and 14U softball teams and the Mooresville High and Mooresville Middle School softball teams.“Baseball (and now softball) are just in my blood,” said Meadows, who runs his own appraisal company and his farm to make a living. “Baseball has been a part of my life since I can remember. I want kids to have the same great experience that I did growing and even now. That is why I still like to be involved in the game as much as possible.”Meadows, now 45, first established his passion for the game as bat boy for his older brother Jimmy’s American Legion (then Post 66) teams, as young Johnny used to hang around the field, mow the grass, do whatever it took to be near the team. Jimmy went on to to play in the New York Yankees’ organization in the minors.Johnny Meadows became a standout for the American Legion and Mooresville High teams, mainly as pitcher before going playing the same position at Pfeiffer University for his freshman and sophomore seasons.Meadows finished his career at Appalachian State, graduating in 1990. As a senior, he threw an 88-mph fastball while getting victories against the likes of Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Western Carolina. He even tried out for the Atlanta Braves in May 1990 (at the Durham Bulls’ facility) but didn’t make the cut.“Obviously, I would have loved to have played professional baseball, but that didn’t work out,” Meadows said. “But I still wanted baseball to be a big part of my life, and I’ve been lucky to be able to stay in it (baseball) as a coach for all these years.”Meadows is busier than ever these days as he focuses on his duties as the American Legion 537 senior team head coach and the Mooresville Legends’ travel softball teams in the summers, while coaching the Mooresville Middle School and High School softball teams in the fall.While Meadows is currently focused on his Legion and travel teams, he has a special interest in the Mooresville High squad, where he coaches his oldest daughter, Kennedi (a rising junior), 16. The Blue Devils went 11-11 in his first year as the coach.Meanwhile, Meadows also is the head coach of the Mooresville Middle School softball, where his daughter, Kepli, is also a key player on a team that is 33-0 in the last two years.His other two daughters, Jentri, 11, and Bentli, 8, play for their respective Mooresville Legends’ club teams.“I have four great girls, and I want them to be great ball players,” said Meadows, whose nephews – Aaron, Andrew and Aubrey Meadows – also starred on the Mooresville baseball team in the recent past. “But no matter how good they are on the field, I just want them to enjoy the game and have the same great experiences and teammates that I had. The memories and friends I made on the field are as important to me as anything.”This summer, Meadows is looking to add to his memories. He is in this third year with Mooresville American Legion Post 537, which was created in 2011, breaking away from Post 66, based at Lake Norman High.While his 2013 team is off to a slow start at 2-6, he thinks they will get better when the entire squad gets back together from various summer obligations, and if the rain, which he says is the worst he remembers, slacks off.Meadows gets most of his team from Mooresville High, where players like Devan Watts, Wade Cobb, Jonathan Dickens, Dallas Jackson, Wesley Ludwig, Trey Mazza and Brandon Moore have already made an impact. But he also expects big things from Davidson Day’s Jack Kolls, North Iredell’s Austin Hartness and South Iredell’s Jack Carty and Kane Sutten.Meadows is no stranger to success in American Legion ball, as he went 121-41 in five years (2006-2010) as Post 66 Junior head coach, playing in three of five state championships in that span, winning in 2009 while earning state runner-up honors in 2008 and 2010, with players like former South Iredell standout Chris Dula – who is now at Catawba College and was drafted by the Texas Rangers earlier this month – and Mooresville stars Ryan Brennan (Farleigh Dickinson) and his nephew, Austin Meadows (Catawba Valley Community College), to name a few.Meadows hopes he can eventually have the same kind of success with his senior team. But for now, he is just trying to make the most of his team this summer.“I think this team is capable of being a lot better than we’ve played,” said Meadows, whose team begins conference play Sunday. “Once we get our whole team playing together, I’m excited to see what we can do.”For a guy who has lived baseball for nearly four decades, the excitement of the next game never seems to get old.
Monday, Jun. 17, 2013
Meadows coaches for love of the game
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for the Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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