By Mike London
LANDIS – South Rowan senior and East Carolina baseball Nathan Chrismon knows what lies ahead, but he has never retired from a challenge.
The ECU has put together another banner recruitment class to join the two that came before it. Last spring, the Pirates were good and won a regional in Greenville before losing in a Super Regional at Vanderbilt. The Pirates have 25 players returning from a 44-17 team.
Omaha and the College World Series are not a dream for the ECU – it is a realistic goal.
Fifteen middle school players in the 2022 class have committed to ECU. When Chrismon committed at the end of July, he was the fifth shortstop to commit to the program. Some of these short stops will be second basemen, third basemen or outfielders in Greenville.
“Nathan was recruited as an athlete, and he’s going to East Carolina as prepared as any high school player can be,” said Empsy Thompson, one of Chrismon’s coaches with the South Charlotte Panthers’ show team. “He will be ahead of many beginners because of the experience he has had with the Panthers. He has met many Division I arms. He has played with skilled teammates. He has played second base for the Panthers with a third baseman going to Louisville and a shortstop going to NC State. Sometimes he has moved to the field because that was where we needed him. One of the things you learn with the Panthers is accepting a role. ”
In Sørlandet, Chrismon has been special since he began his university studies as a beginner. His role for the Raiders has been an annoying offensive catalyst, aggressive base runner and consistent shortstop.
Like all other baseball players in the 2022 class, he has had his high school career drastically reduced. His second season was silenced by the pandemic after five games.
His baseball season was limited to 18 games, but was still outstanding. He hit .340 with a .549 base percentage, scored 24 runs and stole 12 bases for a 14-4 team. He made the 2A all-state squad selected by the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association, as did two of his teammates, midfielder Kane Kepley (Liberty) and second baseman Ty Hubbard (uncommitted). The three also won gold medals as members of the championship team in the state games.
As his high school career was limited, Chrismon was recruited mainly because of the speed and glove he showed with the South Charlotte Panthers.
“The Panthers are a great program and they have really done a lot for me,” Chrismon said. “They started the recruitment process for me, and then they helped me complete it.”
Chrismon grew up in a UNC household. His mother (South Rowan AD Angie Deal Chrismon) and father (baseball coach Thad Chrismon in the South) are UNC candidates. Thad was a record-breaking closer for Tar Heels. Nathan’s older brother, Austin, recently graduated from college and was a member of the UNC football team.
Not that there was any pressure to steer Nathan toward Chapel Hill.
“I was always open to the best fit, and my parents always supported that I found that fit,” Nathan said. “I have no doubt that East Carolina is the best place for me.”
East Carolina, a school where South Rowan candidate Eric Tyler played the lead role after making the transition from catcher to third baseman, was among the first schools to actively recruit Chrismon and was the most dedicated and persistent. It was the program that took the time to build a relationship with him.
Chrismon committed after a visit to Greenville with his family.
“We worried some people that the miss of the 2020 season could hurt him, but then Nathan got opportunities to go somewhere,” said coach Chrismon. “He had never been to ECU before we visited there. I know he had pretty high expectations, but then the school and the baseball program far exceeded those expectations. The whole experience blew him out of the water. I’m excited about him. The ECU checks all the boxes. It’s a great program with a style of play that suits him. ”
East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin takes his campus rounds at the wheel of a six-passenger golf cart – “Cliff’s Cab”, they call it – and he gave Chrismons a personal guided tour.
“We had to spend a few hours with coach Godwin, walking and riding, and I got a really good feeling about not just the baseball program, but the whole environment at ECU,” said Nathan. “When we took a little bathroom break, I said to my father, ‘This is it. This is the place. ‘”
There have been quite a few father / son, father / daughter and mother / daughter teams in Rowan County sports.
It’s never easy, never routine, but Chrismons has made it a relatively smooth operation.
“I guess having your dad train your whole life can be a blessing and a curse, but there have been few ups and downs, and I’ve always seen it as something positive,” Nathan said. “My father is a coach who knows how to make the boys better, and that’s the most important thing. I know how much he has helped me and all my teammates. In practice he is coach Chrismon and at home he is dad. It’s that simple. “
Nathan has also benefited from having an older brother, who was part of a large athletic program.
“Austin has helped me tremendously as far as the weight room, and he’s always been there to answer all my questions,” Nathan said.
Nathan has also played football for the South – his wheels made him an exciting, distorting quarterback – and he played basketball as a junior, but he will focus on baseball as a senior.
This spring will bring an extremely important season for South’s program, which has the talent to run at championships, even in a busy South Piedmont Conference.
“I miss football, especially Friday nights, and it’s a little hard to sit and watch it,” said Nathan. “I also enjoyed playing basketball because basketball challenged me in different ways as an athlete. Every sport challenges you differently. But I wanted to have a senior baseball season without distractions. I wanted to be at the autumn training with my teammates. I wanted to play the fall season with the South Charlotte Panthers and finish strong with that group of teammates. ”
Chrismon has influenced over the years, not only with teammates, but with coaches.
Brett Stirewalt, who is now at West Wilkes High, was the assistant coach at South last season.
“Nathan is one of those kids who always sucked up all the baseball knowledge he could, and he always challenged me to train him hard, to make him better,” Stirewalt said. “He is a leader and not just by actions. He’s more vocal than you might think. He keeps his teammates to a high standard, holds them accountable, and he sticks to the same high standard. He’s one reason South Rowan baseball has been so good. ”
Chrismon has not ruled out coaching as a future career, but he can also see himself getting into the business side of sports down the road. ECU offers 135 different majors, so he has some options and some time to figure out what he wants to do after his baseball career is in the books.
“He’s been a really nice kid to train and he’s an exceptional player,” Thompson said. “Whatever he needs to do to get on the ECU, he will do it.”