Auburn University baseball coach Butch Thompson

Daniel Dye / The Herald

Auburn University baseball head coach Butch Thompson delivers the keynote address at Edgewood Academy’s “First Pitch Banquet” held last Thursday at the Millbrook Civic Center.

Edgewood heard from two big names in baseball at its first-ever First Pitch Banquet which raised money for the school’s athletic fund Thursday at Millbrook Civic Center.

First-year Edgewood baseball coach Justin Jones invited Auburn University baseball coach Butch Thompson and Atlanta Braves pitcher Will Smith to share with Jones’ players and the Edgewood community their experiences in life and baseball.

“This is just a good event to get going for the baseball team, Edgewood and the community,” Jones said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done a First Pitch Banquet and we hope to keep it going and growing.”

Thompson, who is in his fifth year as head coach at Auburn, delivered the keynote following a barbecue dinner.

“It’s so easy to talk about baseball,” Thompson said. “I think as a leader of young people I’m trying to get across good principles that not only make you a better player but a better teammate and a better man.”

Thompson’s five-point message addressed how to persevere when faced with fear. To illustrate his message, he said retired NASA astronaut and Auburn University graduate James Voss wanted to meet the baseball team this past season.

Voss and fellow astronaut Susan Helms conducted the longest spacewalk in history.

“I asked him what he did with his fear being out there for nine hours,” Thompson said. “After he paused for a few moments, he said, ‘My preparation was greater than my fear.’”

Smith, who joined the Braves in November, encouraged the Wildcats to relax while playing the game.

“Let’s say you give up a lead-off hit,” Smith said. “No big deal. Step back, take a breath and realize you’re only one pitch away from getting two outs. I used to think that was so cliché, but it is true.”

Smith made it to the majors on May 22, 2012 when the Royals promoted him from the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers.

The 2019 MLB All-Star from Newnan, Georgia said he was excited to be back home and playing for a winning team in 2020.

Jones’ history with Thompson goes back to his days playing for the Tigers when Thompson was an assistant coach. 

“(Thompson) is really good at relating baseball to life,” Jones said. “For anybody who has played the sport, baseball is a lot like life. I tell my boys baseball is a failure sport. You have to know how to handle failure. I hope they get that they have to work hard.”

Jones said he has settled in well after his first year at Edgewood and expects his players to do well this season.

“You walk in to Edgewood on Day 1 and they treat you like family,” Jones said. “The first day of practice was Jan. 6 and I’m just starting to see what we got. I think we will be pretty good this year. They are very known for baseball around this area so I’m hoping to get that tradition going again.” 

Jones inherits a team that posted three straight losing seasons after winning eight straight state championships.