A cultural overhaul… Perkins’ arrival changed the environment of Hampton baseball
Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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Leaning on the fence at Scotty Bunton Field, Hampton High baseball coach Nicholas Perkins looked over the groomed playing field, the large banner lining the outfield fence, and the lights that allow the team to play night games.
“It’s been a multi-year collaborative effort between coaches, players, parents, alumni, the community — it’s just been a collaboration between everyone that cares about this baseball program,” Perkins said of the growth and development at Hampton. “We have very good facilities … and we think it’s a great place to watch a ballgame.”
The improvement in facilities has come hand-in-hand with the development of a winning program at Hampton, which has not traditionally been known as a baseball powerhouse. “I tip my hat to Hampton as they do appreciate winning and they appreciate hard work so if you can win while working hard people are going to support you,” Perkins said.
One of the first steps — and most prominent — was the installation of lights at the field. Prior to that, baseball games often were halted as darkness descended and the junior varsity saw limited play. Now, both squads can play and the junior high program is adding night games.
“The lights have been huge,” Perkins said. “In my mind and philosophy, varsity games are to be played later and that allows more people to come to the game. It allows parents and families of just not your home team but your visiting team to get off work, go home and take a shower, and arrive at the ball park for first pitch.
“It has allowed games to be played later and that has helped with the admission at the gate, which helps us pay for our umpires. It has helped concession stand profit. And it has allowed us to play junior varsity games early and to have a full schedule of JV games. The lights at Scotty Bunton Field have just had a huge impact on our program.”
The popularity of the program also is drawing more players. Perkins said he and his staff want players to know they love and care about the game; have knowledge about the game; and want to impart that to the players.
“I hope they think that we take this very serious and it’s just not just something to do between basketball and football starting back up in the summer and fall,” said Perkins. “We hope and think that we have been able to emphasize the importance of the program and just continue to add to the legitimacy of baseball in this community.”
Perkins also said that the support that he has received from the administration at Hampton High School has played a significant role in helping to mold and shape the program, starting with the support of Principal Jeff Bradley. The coach has worked to create a positive atmosphere for both the student athletes and the fans.
“You are not going to hear vulgarity, we don’t have slamming of equipment, or throwing of bats,” said Perkins. “It’s a public school system and you are not leading Bible studies before practice or you are not concluding practice in prayer, but we do try to set a positive Christian example. We do fall short of that and repent, but we try to have an environment that is definitely one that is grounded in the Christian faith of the head coach.”
And those changes are evident on the field as well. The 2022 Hampton baseball team was ranked in the top 10 in Single A baseball in the state and advanced to within one game of qualifying for the TSSAA Single A state baseball tournament.
Perkins said the success that was achieved by the 2022 Bulldogs wouldn’t have happened without the 2020 and 2021 teams.
“Everyone will talk about 2022 for a long time but it started in 2020 with that large group of seniors as COVID-19 shut down a large part of the country,” Perkins said. “We would have went on to have had a big 2020 and we were five outs from a region title in 2021, so the 2022 season was a crowning of the final touches of what has been going on since 2020. We got off to a good start this year and rode that to a great post-season. It was good to have that success.”
The change in culture — from facilities to fans to the players on the field — is key, he said.
“When you are winning games and having fun doing it and it’s a good atmosphere to play in with a high-energy type of baseball — people want to be a part of that,” Perkins said.