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Davis tapped as next town administrator

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intimidators get hot at right time

The Kannapolis Intimidators are rolling, and manager Ernie Young says there’s no secret to the team’s success.

“They’re just playing hard,” Young said Monday night after the Intimidators stretched their winning streak to seven games.

“Every day they’re just going out and giving themselves a chance to win a ballgame. And from day one, these guys have been battling. They haven’t given up, even when we’ve been down late in the ballgame. They’ve battled and battled and battled and stayed close.

“We lost a lot of close games, but we also won a lot of close games.”

Going into Tuesday night’s game against Greensboro, Kannapolis held a four-game lead over second-place Lake County in the South Atlantic League Northern Division.

Things couldn’t have gone better for the Intimidators in their recent series at West Virginia.
Kannapolis swept that four-game set against one of the divisional contenders, while other teams that had been bunched near the top lost and fell back as well.

Several players have been hot at the plate during the recent surge. Kenny Williams, Jon Gilmore, Josh Phegley, Eduardo Escobar and Luis Sierra have led the way in the last 10 games as the Intimidators went 8-2.

“That’s what team baseball is all about,” Young said. “From one to nine, these guys are picking each other up. Each one of them is going out there and helping the team win.”

Then there’s the Kannapolis pitching.

The Intimidators rank third in the SAL in ERA, pace the league with 14 shutouts and Charlie Leesman’s 11 wins are also a league-high. Closer Dan Remenowsky has 19 saves.

Dexter Carter was a strikeout-machine for the Intimidators until he was part of the Chicago White Sox trade with San Diego for Jake Peavy last week.

“It’s nice,” Young said. “When the pitchers go out there and throw strikes and have good tempo on the mound, the defense plays better. And it affects the offense as well because they’re going out there and they’re putting up a quick zero.

“They’re giving us a chance to go out and score some runs the following inning.”

On Monday night, James Albury (2-0) was the winning pitcher.

“He’s gotten better each outing,” Young said. “His first outing I’m sure wasn’t to his liking, but each outing after that he’s gotten better and better, and he’s given us a chance to win.”

As would be expected for a Class A team, roster turnover for the Intimidators has been extensive. But the team, which is enjoying record attendance, keeps winning.

“Each time a guy moves, that’s part of baseball,” Young said. “I try to tell our guys, ‘Keep playing hard, because good or bad, you never know when it’s going to be the last game that you play.’

“So if you take that out on the field each night and leave everything out there, then you don’t have anything to worry about.

“You can hold your head high and know that you’ve done something.”

After an open date today, the Intimidators are at Asheville for four games. They return home Aug. 17 for an eight-game set against Lexington and Bowling Green.

—Steve Winzenread

Posted by Ben McNeely on 08/12 at 09:19 AM
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

White Sox’s top draft pick learns ropes with Intimidators

Jared Mitchell is taking it all in. At age 20, he’s seen success on the field that most athletes can only dream about.

In June, he led Louisiana State University to a national championship at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. He was named Most Outstanding Player, batting .348 with two homers, two doubles, a triple and seven RBIs.

And oh, by the way, Mitchell also plays football. He’s a two-sport athlete who became just the second player in LSU history to win national titles in both baseball and football — he was wide receiver for the Tigers, who defeated Ohio State, 38-24, in the BCS National Championship game in January.

The Chicago White Sox took him as their first-round draft pick in July. By foregoing his senior year at LSU, Mitchell is getting a head-start on his baseball career — and that career is starting in Kannapolis.

Impressive for a 20-year-old, for sure, but it didn’t seem to phase Jared.

“I’m taking it all in,” he said before last Saturday’s game against the Lakewood BlueClaws, “just living in the moment.”

Growing up, Jared played all sports — baseball, basketball, football, soccer — and dropped them as he went along.

“He was playing any kind of ball when he was 5 years old,” father Craig Mitchell said.

While Jared’s older brother would be playing little league baseball games, Jared would be on an empty field, running and sliding into bases, Craig said, coming back all dirty, but ready to head out for more.

By the time he was eight, Jared was playing four different sports and played them all the way into junior high school. He loved the competition, Craig said, and he loved to win.

But at age 11, Jared’s interest in baseball exploded when he joined a select league.

“At first he didn’t want to do it,” Craig said. “We went to an organizational meeting and there were other kids throwing the ball around. When he saw those kids that were at his level or better, he jumped in there and got excited.”

His parents traveled all over Louisiana and Mississippi, following Jared and his team.

Jared was competitive at everything, and wanted to be the best — at school and in sports.

“When he was in the fifth-grade, he got his first “B” on a report card,” his mother Debra said. “He didn’t like it. I told him getting a B was OK, but if he wanted an A, he would have to work harder.”

Jared learned competitiveness from his older brother, Derek, with whom Jared would play. Jared would come in the house, all roughed up by Derek and his friends, Debra said, but that contributed to Jared’s competitive nature.

By high school, Jared had dropped basketball, was the quarterback of the football team and was playing baseball.

The Minnesota Twins tried to draft Mitchell in the 2006 amateur draft. He was 17 years old and about to graduate high school.

The Twins kept telling Jared he was going to be their first-round draft pick. Then he got a call from the Twins, saying they were going with someone else.

“He was honest with them all the time,” Debra said. “He trusted that what they were telling him was what they were going to do, and when he got the phone call, he couldn’t believe it.”

What was the Twins’ loss was LSU’s gain — Jared enrolled at the school to play football and baseball.

“People ask me which sport is he better at,” Craig said. “I think he is equally good at both — he just hasn’t had a lot of time on the football field.”

In his freshman year, Mitchell led his teammates in stolen bases and batted .258 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. But it was in a game against Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas where Jared showed his mettle.

Late in the ninth inning, he made an over-the-wall catch of a potential game-tying home run. Instead, the Tigers won, 5-3.

That play jump-started a young LSU team over the seventh-ranked team in the country at the time, said Paul Mainieri, LSU’s baseball coach.

“He made plays like that every year he was here,” Mainieri said. “We grew to expect him to make those types of plays.”

From there, his play on the diamond was nothing short of spectacular. At the end of his junior year, he racked up 50 RBIs, a .327 batting average and led the Tigers to win the College World Series.

“Jared Mitchell was the most electric player in college baseball this season,” Mainieri said. “His combination of power and speed was phenomenal. The critical thing for him this was not to participate in spring football training.”

That allowed Jared to focus on baseball completely — something that helped him and the LSU baseball team immensely.

“I said many time that he would be a pro player if he was totally focused on the sport of baseball,” Mainieri said, “And I didn’t stand in his way when he signed with the White Sox. He was ready.”

This is the second year in a row the Intimidators drew a first-round draft pick from the home ball club. Infielder Gordon Beckham, who played at the University of Georgia, spent a few weeks in Kannapolis last year, before moving up through the minors and eventually drawing a spot on the White Sox’s active roster this year.

Jared arrived at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium on July 8 and donned a Kannapolis Intimidators uniform, but he didn’t take the field. The higher-ups wanted him to take a rest coming off the CWS, and placed him on the seven-day disabled list before letting him jump into the minor league grind.

“I’ve been resting,” he said after batting practice. “This is the longest break I’ve taken since I was in college.”

His focus, as always, is to better learn the game that he loves.

“I’m here just to get better and to help the team,” he said. “This is what I want to do.”

Debra Mitchell said she didn’t think signing a major-league contract would change her son.

“I think he will still work hard,” she said. “He always has, from a very young age. He never thought he was above criticism. He was always willing to learn more, do things differently, always been a team player.”

And on his recent success, all he could do was smile.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said.

—Ben McNeely

Posted by Ben McNeely on 07/22 at 03:33 PM
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mid-season heat: At All-Star break, I’s look to carry momentum

KANNAPOLIS—On Opening Night, pitcher Greg Infante was on a hot streak, pitching a no-hitter until he left the game in the sixth inning.

In the first month of the season alone, the Kannapolis Intimidators pitching staff threw six shutouts. Since then, they have thrown two, pitching coach Larry Owens said.

He said he couldn’t explain it.

“It’s all relative,” he said, “It depends on who’s throwing, who you’re playing.”

But going into the All-Star break next week, the young Intimidators are learning quickly that it is a marathon, not a sprint, to finish out the season.

“We’re a young club,” manager Ernie Young said, “and mathematically, we’re still in the race through the first half of the season.”

With a record of 35-30, the Intimidators are about five games behind the Lakewood BlueClaws and second place in Northern Division in the South Atlantic League.

At this level of professional baseball, it is all about learning the game, for that rare chance to make it to the majors.

But Young said he doesn’t worry or look to the next game or the game after that. He is focused on the game at hand—and he tries to keep his players in the same mindframe.

“I keep telling them, ‘We’re playing today, don’t worry about tomorrow’,” he said. “We’ll continue to grow and do the little things to improve—know when to bunt, know the strike zone.

“If Sept. 10 is our last game, they’ll be ready for the next level,” Young said.

In the bullpen before Thursday night’s game versus the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Owens demonstrated to the pitching staff exercises they could do to improve their pitching.

“You can throw whatever you want if you do these drills,” he said.

He stood on the mound in the bullpen, took a step, then threw a heater right into the catcher’s mitt. Then, he repeated it and repeated it, over and over, right down the middle.

“I can do this easier than you can because I’m older,” Owens said. “It’s not about just throwing a good game. Expect more out of yourself, every game.”

Coming off a three-game road trip to West Virginia, where the Intimidators took the series, two games to one, the Is faced the Grasshoppers in another three-game homestand. They faced the Grasshoppers last weekend and took the series two games to one.

Going on the road and playing, then coming home, only to play three-game homestand back-to-back can take its toll, but Young said it’s the player’s job.

“We’re all professionals,” he said. “We signed on for this. This is your job and you love to do it. If you give it everything you’ve got, I’m good.”

Still, the Intimidators have had some successes. Along with Young, left-fielder Tyler Kuhn and closing pitcher Dan Remenosky will play in the All-Star game next week in Charleston, W.Va.

Kuhn, 22, is leading the Intimidators in offense, with a.315 batting average, 25 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Remenowksy, 23, has been in the Intimidators closer role, striking out 38 batters in about 22 innings, a 2.49 ERA and a record of 3-3.

Keeping that type of energy up through the second half of the season is the challenge, Owens said.

“It’s a long season—a grind,” he said. “It can be very monotonous. But if we carry over to the second half what we’ve been doing in the first half, we’ll do well.”

But first, the team has to get through the weekend—where temperatures will reach into the 90s.

“Start hydrating now,” Young told his players before pre-game warm-ups, “and avoid alcohol.”

– Ben McNeely

Posted by Ben McNeely on 06/18 at 06:09 PM
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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Haggling over baseball

Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium sits right next to Interstate 85 in Kannapolis. This was a selling point 15 years ago when business and community leaders began formulating the idea of bringing minor league baseball to Kannapolis.

But the dream didn’t quite pan out as everyone planned.

“We never got the honeymoon most teams get,” said Kannapolis Intimidators vice president Tim Mueller.

From the beginning, the team has been mired in controversy, some of which still continues to this day.

It started out as a joint venture between Kannapolis, Cabarrus County and Rowan County to build a baseball stadium that could host minor league baseball. But cost overruns, bad management and less-than-expected revenues has made “The Cannon” a sticking point between the city and county.

The stadium, jointly owned by the Rowan-Kannapolis Sports Authority, is in a prime location, and that is why the city and county are fighting over it.

Built in 1995, the county paid a majority of the $7 million construction cost for building the stadium. According to a share agreement between Rowan County and Kannapolis, the city and county are equal owners of the stadium, even though Rowan County paid about $5 million of the stadium construction cost and the city paying about $1.6 million. Kannapolis is still making payments to Rowan County for its portion of the construction costs.

Rowan County also has paid for much of the maintenance costs at the stadium, although Smith Family Baseball, the current owners of the franchise, has taken over much of the annual costs.

The baseball team never has brought in the revenue that proponents said it would.

Because of that, county wants out of the baseball business. Commissioners see it as a money-losing proposition. In 2008, the county appraised the stadium and the land it sits on. They found it to be about $10.5 million. Rowan County also wants Kannapolis to sign a new ownership agreement based on what each entity actually paid to built the Cannon.

If approved, that would make it a 75/25 ownership, with Rowan County legally as the majority investor.

But Kannapolis doesn’t want to play that ballgame.

City officials see the benefit in the stadium as an attraction and a way to better the city’s quality of life. With the establishment of the North Carolina Research Campus on the old Cannon Mills site, Kannapolis is looking to capitalize on all the potential advantages that comes with the research campus.

The city is an ardent supporter of the team and the ownership. It would purchase the stadium and property with Smith Family Baseball to end the controversy once and for all.

The problem is the city just doesn’t have the money to make such a move.

The city has done its own appraisal of the stadium and property, but it is not releasing its number publicly. The city believes the appraisal will bring back a number much less than Rowan’s $10.5 million,  because it did not take into account that the land sits near Lake Fisher — the water supply for Concord.

“There are watershed protections on the land,” Mueller said. “Only so much of the land can be used, and the stadium pretty much takes that up.”

If that is the case, then Kannapolis has something to haggle with Rowan County over.

In the meantime, both Kannapolis City Council and the Board of Commissioners publicly support the Intimidators and Smith Family Baseball, but neither side can come to an agreement on how to proceed with the ownership issue.

The Rowan-Kannapolis Sports Authority doesn’t exist, except on paper, and there is a matter of what to do with $400,000 in that now-defunct organization’s bank account.

Besides, Kannapolis has bigger things to worry about, like selling its $168.4 million self-financing bond package to build new infrastructure on and around the research campus.

The new chairman of the Rowan board, Carl Ford, said he would like to have the ownership issue over and done with by the end of the year. A pipe dream, considering the state of the economy.

But there is still that goal for the city and Smith Family Baseball – that one day, they would fully own the stadium where the Intimidators play.

It would be a big asset for city to have a baseball stadium.

– Posted by Ben McNeely

Posted by Ben McNeely on 05/03 at 05:53 PM
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Home, where my thoughts are escaping …

Click here to see a map of where the 2009 Kannapolis Intimidators come from.

It’s one thing to play the game that you love so much on your home soil.

It’s a totally difference thing to play it in a country thousands of miles away from your home, away from family and friends.

But many minor league players do just that—just for the chance to make it to the Big Dance. They start out at teams like Kannapolis, making very little money, playing games everyday, honing their skills. Some of the players who come from Latin America—Venezuela, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic—speak very little English, if at all.

This is more than just summer ball camp. This is their life. And living in a foreign land can be a little daunting.

So it’s comforting to know that they have a support system here in Cabarrus County, N.C.

The Intimidators Boosters Club is that support system.

The group hosts monthly picnics for the team. Usually a few hours before games at the picnic pavilion at Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium, the boosters bring home-cooked food based around a theme—this month it was barbecue. It’s a time for the team and fans to relax before the game.

JoAnn Fugitt is in charge of the picnics. For her, the meal is more than just to meet the players.

It is a labor of love.

The Fugitts, of Mooresville, are a host family and house pitcher Greg Infante and shortstop Eduardo Escobar in their home. Both players are from Venezuela and neither can speak English.

“Babel Fish and the Spanish translation dictionary are our friends,” JoAnn said. “We translate the articles for Greg so he can read them online.”

The Fugitts have four children—all home-schooled—and they host players during baseball season. They have been doing that for eight years now.

“A player came up to us one year,” JoAnn said, “and asked if he could stay with us. We have a game room on the back of our house and they said, ‘We want to stay in here.’ So we moved beds in there.”

The players call her “Mama.”

“I’m their American mother,” she said. “Every Mother’s Day, my phone rings off the hook from former players, no matter where they are in the world, calling to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.”

For the booster club members, this isn’t just a chance to meet a future major leaguer, said Terrance O’Keefe.

“We love the game,” he said, ” and the players come and go, but everyone in the club stays.”

These are baseball fanatics. “Rabid,” as Denise O’Keefe said. Most have season tickets and most have been coming to the Cannon since the team was the Piedmont Bollweevils.

“We sit next to the third-base line, right behind the home dugout and you can hear everything going on,” Denise said. “That’s how I learned about baseball.”

The boosters keep up with the birthdays of the players and give out birthday cookie cakes to the players when it is their birthday month. While folks ate barbecue, hush puppies and homemade peach cobbler, booster Denise Crosby called out players’ names and birthdays for April and May. This month’s picnic was moved up a hour, from 1 p.m. to noon. Manager Ernie Young, himself a journeyman former major leaguer, requested the time change.

“We have to work around that,” said booster Diane Miller. “New manager and all.”

Her husband, Ray Marsden, is the unofficial photographer for the team, providing photos for the Intimidators Web site. They also house players, mainly Spanish-speaking.

“I have to warn them that I’m using the Spanish that I learned in high school—which was back before they were born,” she said. “But when you take them to Wal-Mart for the first time, it hits them. They have never seen anything like it before. They make nothing here and most of them send money back home to their families.”

Miller said there are baseball academies in the Dominican Republic, where kids go to learn how to baseball, in the hopes they can, one day, come to America and play in Major Leagues.

“Some of them teach them English, others don’t,” Miller said.

All that matters is baseball.

The players buy their own food, JoAnn said, but usually, she cooks for them. And they are a part of the family.

“My son Tyler grew up coming to the ballpark, been coming since he was 2 years old,” JoAnn said. “Everyone knows him.”

Why does JoAnn Fugitt do this? Simple: For the love of the game.

“I grew up playing softball and I love watching baseball,” she said. “I’m happy sitting at home, watching it on T.V. as I am here.”

And, financially, with four home-schooled children, plus housing two players, it can get tight, she said.

“We don’t need extras,” she said, “just as long as I have my season ticket.”

– Posted by Ben McNeely

Posted by Ben McNeely on 05/03 at 02:27 PM
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Weclome to May

The Kannapolis Intimidators had a big April and head into May with a 14-9 record.

In the final installment of a four-game homestand against Lake County (9-13), the Intimidators have carried the series thus far, 3 games to 1. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar made a two-run RBI in the second inning to help the I’s take the win, 5-4. This came after a stunning 8-4 loss to Lake County, where the I’s gave up hits in the loss.

But the I’s are near the top of the South Atlantic League standings, tied with Lexington with a record of 14-9, and on a one-game streak.

Pitcher Greg Infante is having a stellar season, with an ERA of 1.52, while catcher John Curtis is leading the team in hitting with a .326 average.

The Intimidators go on a four-game road series against Lakewood, then one more game at Lake County, before returning to the Cannon for a four-game homestand against Lakewood starting May 14.

Posted by Ben McNeely on 05/03 at 01:05 PM
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh, the wonders of being a mom

By Andrea Scola
Life As Mom
I couldn’t wait to be a mom!  Most of my friends were having their second child, and I only just married.

As soon as the honeymoon was over I started asking the question, “Can we start?” 

He was right, of course, by saying that we should wait.  After all, we were living in a one-bedroom apartment, and still adjusting to the married life (although, at the time, none of the reasons satisfied my quest). 

Rich is four years younger than me, and didn’t have a biological clock ticking. I held my tongue for a year… and then after 9/11 I could no longer restrain myself. 

We were at Ray York’s funeral. I sat with the other wives, while all the firefighters stood at attention along the outside aisles. I sat there feeling remorse as I watched Ray’s wife and children, but somehow my thoughts led to my yearning of having my own children. 

As soon as we stepped outside the church, I ran over to Rich and exclaimed, “I want to have your baby.” And he just simply said, “OK.” Nine months later we conceived, and after another nine, we gave birth to a healthy baby boy. 

Just like most moms going through their first pregnancy, I bought the books, I read tons of articles online and all I had was baby on the brain. 

I was only attuned to the wonderful, glorious things about babies. And then day three of being home with my little bundle of joy, I suffered major culture shock!  Nobody told me that newborns didn’t sleep through the night! 

I can honestly remember sitting on the couch with my baby asleep in my arms. It was a picturesque moment, but I just cried. All I could think was, “He’s never going away. This is it… day in, day out; I am now completely relied on 24/7.” 

I was not going to chalk it up as post-partum. This was reality. I no longer came first in my world. 

As women, as mothers, we learn to adjust. That’s why girlfriends, family, and support groups are so vital for women. 

I joined the Moms Club of Harrisburg before I even actually moved here. I knew I was going to need an outlet, other than my wonderful, supportive husband. 
Being new to the area and a stay-at-home mom with three little children (presently 6, 4 and 3 years of age), I was very much in need of such a group. These women are the best too! Not only did I receive advice for pediatricians, preschools and children-friendly restaurants, but they offer a place where me and my children can socialize and have some fun too. Everyone mom could use support — find a group that will suit your needs and join today. You won’t regret it! 

Oh, once I got over the shock, I did settle into my new role as being a mom. Although I have my moments, I do know my kids are a true gift from God.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:11 AM
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Day of Service seeks to fill need in the community

By Jessica Groover
[email protected]
When members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints were planning their Day of Service 2009, they asked Mayors Scott Padgett and Bob Misenheimer what kept them awake at night. The mayors’ response was empty shelves in local food pantries.

As a way to solve this, church members are partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina for a four-county food drive, running now through Saturday. For Second Harvest, which serves 14 counties in North Carolina and more than 600 agencies, this event will help it fill a greater need.

“Our emergency pantries are experiencing an increase in requests for assistance of 30 to 40 percent (compared to) the same time last year,” said Kay Carter, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. “This drive by the church could not have come at a better time.”

More than 50 barrels are now available throughout Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Stanly counties to collect non-perishable foods. All Cabarrus County fire stations will have barrels, and selected Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Dollar General and Bi-Lo stores also have barrels for collection, as does the Independent Tribune office in Kannapolis.

Saturday will officially be the Day of Service. As those with full barrels and anyone else who wants to donate drive into Roush/Fenway Racing and to the pit stalls on Saturday, volunteers will swarm their vehicles. But the “pit crew” will not fix anything. The crew’s purpose will be to unload the food.

“(This is) so the driver doesn’t have to do anything,” said Glenn Traill, a project manager for Day of Service.

If drivers want to then exit the vehicle, they can visit the Roush/Fenway Racing Museum in Concord for free. A percentage of anything bought at the store there will go toward Second Harvest Food Bank.

For every 1,000 pounds received, the volunteers will tie a banner around the flag pole.

While the day of service’s theme is racing, the purpose is all about helping the food banks.

“What matters most is that we restock the food banks,” Traill said. “If we can just come together as a group, the power of the people is paramount.”

Roush/Fenway Racing is located at 4600 Roush Place in Concord. The Day of Service 2009 will be on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:10 AM
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Cabarrus native hits the stage in ‘Legally Blonde’

By Jessica Groover
[email protected]
When Tally Sessions graduated from Central Cabarrus High School in 1993, he was on his way to UNC-Chapel Hill with a teaching fellowship.

Now, almost 16 years later, the 34-year-old will be on stage in Charlotte in the Broadway production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

Sessions has been on tour with the show, based on the 2001 film, since September 2008. 

The show is about a sorority girl, Elle Woods, who is dumped by her boyfriend for someone more serious. 

Elle then decides to follow him to law school at Harvard University.

The rest of the story follows Elle trying to prove herself once she is accepted at Harvard and becomes a top student in her class.

In the show, Sessions currently plays Aaron, a character he describes as a really pompous law student. Sessions is also the understudy for the role of Emmett, a graduate of Harvard Law and the lead male character. 

When the show comes to Charlotte next week, he will play Emmett for the first time in the Wednesday night production. 

His performances next week will also be the first time most of his family and friends will see him in the musical. Sessions’s mother lives in Cabarrus County, and his brother lives in Charlotte.

As Sessions was growing up, his mother, who used to be a drama teacher at Garinger High School, gave him some of his first stage time. Sessions was also in a middle school play and two productions at Central Cabarrus, “Ten Little Indians,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“I was active (in theatre) my junior and senior year, but it was not something I thought I’d do for a living,” Sessions said.

During his sophomore year of college, Sessions began doing college theatre and really began to focus on it in his junior year. Around that time, people began to compliment Sessions and suggest he switch from education to theatre.

“Tally always did marvelous work in undergraduate productions,” said Ray Dooley, professor in the department of dramatic art at Chapel Hill. “Tally has not only a superb talent, but a generous spirit that comes across whenever he is on stage.”

Sessions changed his major and was in 15 plays in college before graduating.

In the fall of 1998, he moved to New York City to find more job opportunities. After eight months of auditioning, he began landing roles.

“I’ve been able to make a decent living doing what I love to do,” Sessions said.

Sessions has worked with several regional theaters on the east coast and been a part of several off-Broadway shows. 

His first Broadway national tour was in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in 2007. “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is Sessions’ second Broadway tour.

Before appearing in the musical, Sessions had seen the movie once. Now that he is in the show, Sessions has been surprised by the fan base for it.

“This is probably the show that has the biggest following of any shows I’ve done,” Sessions said. “The audience goes crazy for it, and the reaction is amazing.”

Even though the plot of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is funny and Sessions said people are sometimes quick to dismiss it as pop theater, he has noticed that Elle’s story and triumph have a huge impact on the audience.

“What surprised me is how affected people are by it,” Sessions said. “People get such a good feeling from it.”

The positive feeling and huge following are what Sessions credits for the show’s success despite the economy having a toll on other Broadway shows.

“We’ve been lucky,” Sessions said. “Our audiences have been pretty packed.”

In fact, the musical is already planning shows for its second year on tour. Sessions said he will stay on as long as he can, but for now, he is enjoying visiting cities around the country and looks forward to going to Bojangles when he returns to Cabarrus County.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” will be at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte from April 21-26.

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:09 AM
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Senior project puts passion for art on display

By Jessica Groover
[email protected]
When Central Cabarrus High School senior Heather Ferrell, 18, decided what to do for her mandatory graduation project, she picked a topic that was less about her future career and more about what she enjoys. As a result, Ferrell, who hopes to be doctor, has now designed 15 original tattoos.

“As much as I hated the project, I’m glad I chose this,” Ferrell said. “It’s really interesting. I’ve been interested in medical stuff, but I’ve taken art classes since the seventh grade.”

Ferrell has since completed her graduation project, but she is one of about seven students in Cabarrus County who have chosen to go to The Tattoo Shop in Concord for their project. This year was the first time the shop had students work on graduation projects there.

Ferrell began her project by completing the required paper. She researched and wrote about the history and application of tattoos.

“I think the most interesting thing is the history,” Ferrell said. “There are reasons for it, like beautification, and I think that rings true today.”

After completing the paper, Ferrell spent about six to eight of the 15 required hours in the shop watching people get tattoos and examining designs. She spent the rest of her time designing 15 original tattoos, which each took about 45 minutes to an hour.

Her designs included flat tattoos with no shading, traditional tattoos, which have some shading, fine line tattoos, which are very detailed, tribal tattoos, with bold lines and flat designs, and black and grey tattoos.

At the end of her design phase, Ferrell then showed her tattoos to her mentor, Terry Garmon, tattoo artist and co-owner of the shop. Upon his advice, she then fixed some of the lines in her tattoos before presenting them to her panel of judges.

Even though her project is over, Ferrell still returns to the shop because her friend, Doug Wilson, 18, a senior at Jay M. Robinson High School, is now working on his graduation project at The Tattoo Shop.

Like Ferrell, Wilson wrote a paper on the history of tattoos, but he also focused on the removal of them, something that he learned a lot about.

“Getting a tattoo removed is worse than getting a tattoo,” Wilson said. “The lasers for removal can get up to 700 degrees.”

While at The Tattoo Shop, Wilson has spent his time looking at designs with David Lowder, tattoo artist and co-owner of the shop. Besides learning more about the designs, Wilson has learned some of the differences between practicing art on paper or a canvas and on skin.

“You have to take into account the color of skin,” Wilson said. “You can’t put a tattoo on freckles and moles.”

Like Wilson, Tyler Starnes, 17, a senior at Mount Pleasant High School, is also working on his graduation project at the shop. Starnes has spent his hours drawing flash designs, which are tattoos already drawn, and learning about the machines for applying tattoos. 

For his presentation, Starnes will not just design original tattoos like Ferrell and Wilson. He will also apply them to practice skin, which is a thin rubber material that people attach to their or someone else’s arm with a rubber band to practice applying a tattoo.

“I don’t know how it’s going to feel compared to drawing on paper,” Starnes said.

Starnes’ experience at The Tattoo Shop will help him in the future because he hopes to become a tattoo artist after he finishes high school. After the graduation project, Starnes said he will need to do an apprenticeship and practice as much as possible.

Practice is the best way to learn, Garmon said. He and Lowder also told the students how different it is to design for skin.

“(Everybody’s) skin is different,” Lowder said. “It’s like having different textures of canvas, although the paper doesn’t move.”

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:08 AM
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Novant appeals CMC’s patient tower, despite state’s OK

By Ben McNeely
[email protected]
Novant Health has appealed the state’s approval for CMC-NorthEast to build a new eight-story patient tower at the Concord hospital.

The Health Service Regulation division gave CMC-NorthEast, and its parent company Carolinas HealthCare System, the green light in late February. 

The Winston-Salem-based health care system filed its appeal on March 27. In the appeal filing, Novant said the new patient tower would take away patients from its facilities in the area.

Novant owns and operates Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, Rowan Regional Medical Center in Salisbury and Presbyterian Hospital-Huntersville. It also has nine practices that are a part of Novant Medical Group in Cabarrus County.

“We are disappointed that Novant has chosen to appeal this project that has already been approved by the state,” said CHS spokesman Scott White, in a statement. “The approved project at CMC-NorthEast does not pose a competitive threat to Novant … All this appeal will accomplish is to delay a project that the state agrees is needed and that has the widespread support of Concord/Cabarrus County and nearby communities.”

The $264 million patient tower and renovation project will add about 425,000 square feet of new space to CMC-NorthEast.

The project will proceed in phases, with a new second floor of the surgery center scheduled to open in 2011. The eight-story patient tower, which will replace hospital rooms dating back to the 1930s, will be completed by mid-2013 and a renovation of the Mariam Cannon Hayes Family Center is scheduled for January 2014.

This is part of the $650 million commitment that Carolinas HealthCare System made to upgrade facilities when CMC-NorthEast merged with the Charlotte-based health care giant in 2006.

The new patient tower would replace about 218 beds that are antiquated. The hospital has a full complement of 457 beds, but some of those are in older buildings on the hospital campus. About 66 beds do not have a bathroom in the room.

The patient tower has been on the minds of hospital executives, even before the merger. It was included on NorthEast Medical Center’s 2015 Plan, a facilities planning document that spelled out what would be needed to meet patient care by the year 2015, prior to the merger.

Novant pursued a proposal to build Rowan Regional Medical Center South for the Kannapolis region, but it was rejected by the state in 2008. 

The state, instead, approved CMC-Kannapolis, a proposed healthplex by CHS to be built on Lane Street.

• Contact reporter Ben McNeely: 704-785-4932.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:07 AM
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For many, plant festival marks the start of Spring

By Jessica Groover
[email protected]
About 2,000 more people than last year were expected at the Cabarrus County Master Gardener Volunteer Association’s 4th Annual Herb and Plant Festival on Saturday.

“The parking lot was full at nine this morning, and that’s never happened, so I know it’s bigger than last year,” said Bill Hickok, chairman of the event.

The event was held at Piedmont Farmers’ Market on Winecoff School Road. Some of the people there had reasons other than the sunny weather for the larger crowd.

Robert Davis, of Kannapolis, visited the festival at for the second time and noticed a difference in the amount of people this year.

“I’m thinking more people, this year, are thinking about growing their own vegetables,” Davis said. “With the economy, I think a lot of people are budget conscious. You grow a pepper, and you can go to the grocery store and see one for more than your whole plant costs.”

Davis was not one of the new gardeners at the show. He and wife, Cathy Davis, came to buy more tomato, squash and other edible plants and herbs for their garden.

Even though they have experience gardening, Davis and his wife spoke with some of the farmers or master gardeners at the festival about the plants. 

The exchange between shoppers and gardeners was one of the benefits of shopping at the festival instead of at a store, according to Nancy Patel, of Charlotte.

“I went to the master gardeners, because they dig up the plants from their gardens, and they can tell you (about it),” Patel said. “If you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, they have no idea.”

Patel also said she has confidence the plants and herbs she buys at the festival will grow well at her home, because they have been growing in local soil. 
She tries to shop for plants and herbs at the festival before going anywhere else.

“This is my first stop in the spring for plants,” Patel said. “It’s like coming to school because you get to learn so much.”

While there were experienced gardeners, like Patel, who had been to the festival before, some people were buying their first plants and herbs.

“I got sweet basil,” said Ian Hedrick, of Concord. “I’m going to see if I can finally find my green thumb.”

Hedrick is attempting to grow her first herb garden. While she did not ask the master gardeners for advice, Hedrick is counting on people at home or the Internet for tips if she struggles with it. 

That is fine with Hickok. He said he enjoys seeing people getting excited about the plants. 

“We sell what we (grow), and we give it all away to four high schools,” Hickok said. “We do this for the education. (My hope) is that people find a new plant, something new or something they’ve always wanted.”

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:05 AM
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Council budgets $10,000 for log cabin restoration

By Jonathan E. Coleman
[email protected]une.com
Over the past few years, restoration projects at the historic post office site on Robinson Church Road have been the norm., The most recent addition, a log cabin believed to be nearly 150 years old, has been sitting on the site for several months, but has yet to be placed on its foundation and restored.

Monday, the Harrisburg Town Council voted to include $10,000 in the 2009-10 budget for continued work on the cabin.

Despite the vote for additional money, some council members expressed concerns about the project.

“One of the biggest complaints I’m hearing from people is how bad it looks out there,” said councilman Bob Scaggs. “I think if we could turn it around quickly, we might stop hearing that from people who drive by it every day.”

Councilman Bill Williams, who has long been an advocate of preserving Harrisburg’s history and a strong supporter of the post office recreational site, said once the foundation is set and the building secure, the council would need to consider how much of a restoration it would take on at the cabin.

“Once we get in on the foundation, there are two ways we could go,” he said. “One, the public doesn’t go inside, and we stop short of that. The other would be to make it safe for the public to go inside.”

Several members were interested in getting feedback from the Harrisburg Historical Society about what role the group might take in future restoration projects.

“Let’s get it structurally sound on the foundation and then let the historical society determine how much they want to put in to keep it up cosmetically or to whatever degree they see fit,” said councilman Jeff Redfern.

Town to negotiate with COG on administrator search
More than two months after terminating the contract of their town administrator, members of Harrisburg’s Town Council continued the discussion about how to best find his replacement.

In an effort to help provide some direction in the search, the council voted Monday to begin negotiations with Centralina Council of Governments to help assist in the search.

Mayor Tim Hagler, who also serves on the town’s personnel committee, told the board the personnel committee wanted some direction about when and where to advertise the position, which was vacated earlier this year when the council voted to terminate the contract of then-administrator Joel Davis less than six months after he was hired.

Hagler also said the committee would like to get more feedback in terms of contracting options for the position.

Councilman Michael Hart suggested working with COG, which aided in the search that produced Davis last year.

“I don’t believe that there is anyone on council or on staff to properly vet someone of that nature,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into that. 

“The comment that I got from COG was that they were not as involved as they typically are. For example, the last few interviews we had here, they would like to have been involved in those, in addition to helping with contracts.”

While he did not elaborate, Hagler said a new administrator’s contract would look different than that offered to Davis.

“We would not accept a contract like that again, and obviously there would be some kind of probationary period,” he said.

Council hoped to get more information at its May meeting about the process moving forward and talk more specifically about what the cost to the town would be if working with COG as opposed to another agency.

• Contact editor Jonathan E. Coleman: 704-789-9105.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:04 AM
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Board to consider revised busing plan

By Jessica Groover
[email protected]
Cabarrus County Schools has announced that the three-tier busing plan, presented to the board of education last week, has since been revised, proposing that most elementary schools would start and end earlier than the original version.

The modified plan now has most elementary schools and Long School running from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In its original form, high schools and four elementary schools would run from 7:15 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. This first tier has not changed much in the new proposal except that the four to six elementary schools would run from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and high schools would be from 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

In the revision, middle schools, Performance Learning Center and Glenn Center programs would run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., instead of middle school students being in class from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Also, the new Early College High School program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.

After the original plan was presented last week, board of education members received many comments from the community asking for alternatives to the plan, the school system said. The board will discuss this new version at the April 23 work session at Concord Middle School.

Ronnye Boone, director of public relations for the school system, said many of the suggestions from the public were about younger children starting and ending earlier in the day. She also said the four to six schools starting in the first tier have still not been announced.

While there were concerns about the elementary school times, many of the board members and parents in the community have complimented several aspects of the plan. One of the advantages of the plan is that it would put teacher assistants in the classroom more so that they do not have to also drive school buses. It could save the school system about $4 million in capital outlay over the next three to five years and increase bus safety with the savings, and it would add 30 minutes to the elementary school day.

There are many components that have been mentioned, but Boone said it is important for the community to know it is still a proposal.

“(The board hasn’t) voted on it yet, and it’s still up for discussion, so there may be revisions on this as well,” Boone said.

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/22 at 11:02 AM
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brother, sister duo creating a buzz with N.C. logo campaign

By Robin L. Gardner
[email protected]
What is the one thing our state is missing? If you ask 13-year-old Ruth Jackson and her 11-year-old brother J.J., from Harrisburg, they would say a state logo.

These two enterprising kids have set up a Web site and started a battle to get North Carolina its very own logo. 

They noticed other states had logos. South Carolina had one with a palmetto tree and a crescent moon. “Why shouldn’t we have one?”

They came up with the idea after their “Grandpa Baker” had taken the two on a summer vacation, exploring 12 North Carolina lighthouses. Their grandfather wanted to share his knowledge with the kids. 

“He would have been thrilled,” the children’s mom, Beth Jackson, 45, said.

“My father had a heart condition since he was young, but absolutely loved the North Carolina coast. He loved the lighthouses. His time in the Coast Guard had meant a lot to him. He was only in the Coast Guard for four years, because of his heart,” Beth said.

It was because of that condition that he had to leave. Beth explained that her father really appreciated service to our country.

“He saw the beauty of the lighthouses and that each one was unique. It was always kind of calling the men home, it was a beacon,” Beth said.

“Two summers ago, he took us to see all the lighthouses, well not all of them, but most of them. They were so pretty,” Ruth said.

“I remember meeting my grandfather’s Coast Guard buddies. I got see a lot of them. He really enjoyed that,” said J.J.

After the summer vacation, “Grandpa Baker” passed away. 

That’s when the idea for the logo came about.

“After he died, we thought it would be a great way to remember him. It would also be a great symbol for North Carolina,” Ruth said.

The kids wanted to honor their grandfather and his love of lighthouses with a project promoting his interest. They started an online business, and a petition to adopt a logo as the official state logo.

Ruth and J.J. had the perfect logo in mind. 

Family friend Mark Coyle, a state law enforcement officer, had designed and copyrighted a logo of a lighthouse in 2004. 

“I came up with the about eight years ago while I was driving on the interstate. I saw the South Carolina logo plenty of times. I then saw it on a car registered to North Carolina, and my brain stated to spin,” said Coyle.

He drew several different versions on a napkin, until he found on that he felt was the essence of the state. Then Coyle submitted the drawing to Washington, D.C., and trademarked it.

“It’s not about the logo. It’s about the concept behind it. It boils down to a state pride issue. Pride and loyalty to your state,” Coyle said.

He thought the logo celebrates a beautiful blue-sky day at the coast. Together, the Jackson kids and Coyle partnered to create “NC Logo, LLC.”

“I’m more a consultant. They will come to me with ideas and I give them my opinion,” Coyle said.

“I think it is wonderful for them to understand parts of a business. Obviously, you have gross and net. The kids know their inventory. They help with shipping and handling. They were very much involved in what it would be, and how to the pricing. Of course, they had help with that. It’s a wonderful thing for them,” Beth said.

They are going to donate a portion of profits from the apparel to a charity for kids, hopefully dealing with heart issues. They have already approached a couple charities. 

The Web site sells merchandise featuring the logo. They also have a link to a petition for people to sign in support of the official logo. The kids hope to present the petition, with thousands of signatures, to the state legislature and make their logo the official state logo. 

Their Web site is http://www.NCLogo.com

• Contact reporter Robin L. Gardner: 704-789-9140.

Posted by Jonathan E. Coleman on 04/14 at 10:52 PM
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