BUIES CREEK – Tuesday was a proud day for Jim Perry ’59 -- just as proud as the day when he made his first Major League Baseball team in 1959, he said.
That’s because Campbell University officially dubbed Tuesday, March 26, as “Jim Perry Day,” when it also formally dedicated the refurbished home venue of its baseball team in honor of Perry during a ceremony prior to a game between the No. 27 Fighting Camels and the Duke Blue Devils, which the Camels won 6-3.
“It’s like making the Major Leagues,” Perry said of the dedication of Jim Perry Stadium. “I didn’t know many years ago when I came to Campbell that this was going to happen. It’s a fantastic day.”
Perry attended Campbell from 1956 to 1959, when he played basketball for the Camels and pitched for one season with the baseball team. He went on to pitch for 17 years in the Major Leagues and won the 1970 Cy Young Award when he was with the Minnesota Twins.
“I made it to the Majors, because I made it to Campbell,” Perry said.
During the dedication ceremony, Perry’s wife, Daphne ’60, whom he met at Campbell, said: “We wish all the players that come here in the future can enjoy [Jim Perry Stadium]. And we hope their careers are as successful as Jim’s.”
Renovations on Jim Perry Stadium began in 2011. Upgrades include a new entrance gate and ticket booth, restroom and concession facility, and exterior wrought iron fencing, as well as improved exterior landscaping.
On Nov. 12, 2012, Campbell announced it would rename the facility in honor of Jim Perry and carry out further renovations that include a new press box, a grandstand that spans dugout to dugout, and seating for 630 spectators, including 310 chair-backed seats. The Camels played its first game in the refurbished Jim Perry Stadium on Feb. 15, beating Eastern Michigan 8-2. Their 15-1 at home so far this season.
“I never imagined we could have a facility as nice as this one,” said Tom Lanier ’70, a longtime follower and supporter of the Camels baseball program who retired from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law as admissions dean. Lanier remembers the days when Perry pitched for a season at Campbell Junior College in the 1950s and when former coach Hargrove Davis would re-stitch baseballs by hand after games and practices. “That’s what kind of budget we were on,” Lanier said.
About four years ago he and his cousin Frank Lanier ’72, ’82 -- a retired superior court judge who is also a longtime follower of the program -- met with current baseball coach Greg Goff in his office. They shared with Goff their dreams for a renovated baseball stadium that matched the potential of the program, Tom Lanier said.
“Greg Goff is the hardest working coach I’ve ever seen. He loves the game, and he loves the university,” Tom Lanier said. “He has a calling. It’s coaching, counseling, guiding and forming -- and when you see that, that kind of dedication needs support.”
The day they met with Goff both Laniers made pledges to financially support any future renovations to the baseball field. Jim Perry then signed on to support the renovations, Tom Lanier said. “What a wonderful thing it is to have a Cy Young Award winner sign on with your program. A lot of people fell right behind [Perry] when that happened.”
He added: “I can just imagine [Hargrove Davis] looking down now at this facility saying, ‘What’s happening in little Buies Creek?’”
On seeing his own name on the side of the newly dedicated Jim Perry Stadium, Perry said: “This makes me feel good, and it makes my family feel good. . . . I’m certainly proud that I could help Campbell with this facility. This is a great place for kids to come to school and to get the education they need.”
Photo caption: Jim Perry '59 throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Fighting Camels baseball game against Duke on Tuesday, March 26, when Campbell University also officially dedicated the Jim Perry Stadium. The Camels won the game 6-3.
Article by Cherry Crayton, digital content coordinator | Photo by Bennett Scarborough