Uwharrie Wampus Cats bring scrappy baseball to Albemarle, Stanly County

Published 5:01 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

The mythical cat recently spotted in downtown Albemarle will soon make another appearance, this time with the area’s newest baseball club.

Memorial Day will see the home opener of the Uwharrie Wampus Cats, an independent wood-bat baseball league calling Don Montgomery Park in Albemarle its home.

More than 35 baseball players, including local players like former West Stanly standout Charlie Carpenter and South Stanly standout Garrett Swink, have joined the new team.

Former West Stanly standout Charlie Carpenter works in the bullpen during Thursday’s Uwharrie Wampus Cats practice. (Photo by Charles Curcio)

Head coach Houston Wright, a native of Gaffney, South Carolina, played two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist and was named All-American. He went on to play at the University of Tennessee at Martin, but a torn labrum in his shoulder ended his playing career. Wright currently coaches at Catawba Valley CC in Hickory.

Wright said many of the players are from the area, such as Charlotte, Monroe and Indian Trail, with maybe three or four out of state players.

“I tried to really stay local just to show there is a lot of talent where (Albemarle citizens) live,” Wright said.

In the recruiting process, he added, the idea was to find all-around players who were better teammates off the field.

“(The team has) really fun, good baseball players, but they are even better kids,” Wright said.

The style of baseball the Wampus Cats will feature, he said, will be a scrappy one, not relying on the long ball but getting hits and running the bases.

Uwharrie will have some power on the team, he added, mentioning B.J. Williams, a former Clemson Tiger who suffered a shoulder injury but will bring a big bat to the Wampus Cats.

The independent nature of the team, he added, will allow the Cats to play against some of the best teams in college-bat leagues in the state and beyond.

“The caliber of players they are, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t win a lot of games this year,” Wright said.

One team the Wampus Cats will see a lot is the Carolina Disco Turkeys, another independent team owned by Cats owner Greg Sullivan. The two teams are scheduled to play 13 times this summer, with the winner taking away a new trophy, the Hwy. 52 Cup.

Wright said the rivalry has already been growing on social media, adding “when we go there…and when they come here, there will be good crowds. It will be entertaining and they will probably be dogfights.”

The Wampus Cats, Wright said, really affords players the chance to get extra at-bats or innings pitched which they may not have gotten during their school’s regular seasons.

“We want to win ball games, but at the end of the day, I want (the players) to get their ABs, their innings…when we do that, we are still going to win baseball games,” Wright said.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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