SALISBURY — It’s difficult to think of vice-president Todd Parnell and the Piedmont Boll Weevils without also thinking of general manager Mark Viniard.
He was there from the start, a part of the highs, the lows and all the shenanigans that you’d expect young kids to produce at the Class A level.
Viniard was actually with the very first team in 1995.
“I was a lowly marketing director the first year,” he joked.
Viniard and the Boll Weevils were greeted by many people who were not immediately receptive to the team.
“Tough and exciting at the same time,” he said. “The community was luke-warm to the stadium project but it was new and we almost won a league title with a very good team. The stadium wasn’t completed until second season.”
Parnell and Viniard were as big in the celebrity department as the players.
Like the time they made a bet with the Hickory brass in 1997. They lost.
“Who can forget Parney and I shaving our heads,” said Viniard, who now resides in White Plains, Md., with wife Rocell and their two kids, Sam and Grayson.
Viniard’s favorite players were David Francia, David Coggin and Marty Crawford.
“Crawford is an odd pick,” Viniard said, “but he was funny and had the best stories. When the baseball sets came out, Marty was listed as a DH and he shouted out of the clubhouse, ‘I’m not a DH. I am a baseball player!’ at the top of his lungs.”
Francia just had a lot of fun and was a center-fielder like Viniard. Most of their fun came outside of the office and probably isn’t printable.
“He played hard all the time,” Viniard recalls.
Viniard sounded almost sorry for Coggin, who had a chance to play football at Clemson.
“Coggin was a jokester with serious talent but I always felt like he regretted not playing football at Clemson,” Viniard said.
Brad and Joe Crede became close friends.
Another Viniard favorite was Jimmy Rollins and not because he was the most famous Boll Weevil of all time.
“He always volunteered for player visits,” Viniard said.
Rollins wasn’t the only great player Viniard was around. The other South Atlantic League teams produced some heavy hitters.
“Seeing Vladimir Guerrero and Andruw Jones, along with Todd Helton, come through was a lot of fun,” he said.
Viniard, who was in baseball for 13 years, was a bit frustrated over the lack of crowds when he left the Boll Weevils for Winston-Salem. But he can surely tell you the smallest crowd ever:
“John Henry Moss made us play a playoff doubleheader with a hurricane bearing down on us and the second game played with no fans and a driving rainstorm in Sept. 1996.”
Actually, there were 38 brave souls there. A reporter walked the bleachers and counted.
Viniard hasn’t forgotten manager Roy Majtyka throwing a white towel onto the field to end the game and the playoff series.
So many stories. Viniard could go on for days. But perhaps his fondest times came with the fans who showed the Illinois native what southern hospitality is all about.
What does he remember most about the people from the southern Rowan County area?
“The Basingers bringing me fresh veggies was always a plus and keeping me healthy,” he said.
People like the Basingers also gave him a healthy vault of memories.
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