Forty five miles north of the sprawling city of Mobile, Bay Minette is a small town in the middle of Alabama. Although it has been the county seat of Baldwin County since 1900, the town still only has population just shy of 8,000. Still, this small town is lucky enough to have Faulkner State Community College in within its borders. More specifically, they have been lucky enough to witness the exciting and winning Sun Chiefs baseball program.
In the 2009 season that finished in May, the Faulkner State Sun Chiefs produced a winning 16-11 season with a .593 winning percentage. The team was led on offense by the bat of third baseman Josh Huggins. Huggins managed a .418 batting average with 74 hits and 56 runs brought home. Defensively the Sun Chiefs featured Travis Corley who won 8 games behind a less than 3 ERA pitching career performance. Faulkner State managed to place fourth in the difficult ACC conference this season. The Sun Chiefs went to the Alabama Community College Conference Championship but lost to Shelton State in the finals.
For the past 26 years, the Sun Chiefs have been coached by Wayne Larker and have flourished under his guidance both at a team level and individually. Of those seasons, Larker has lead them to the playoffs 18 times, denied in only 8 seasons. He has led them to a 723-531 overall record (a .576 winning percentage) with 6 league championships and three Alabama State Championship titles. Larker has ties to the Major Leagues, signing a contract with the California Angels in 1981 before moving over to coaching as his career. His father was Norm Larker, a Major League Baseball player from 1958-1963 who played the majority of his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a first baseman.
Fans come to cheer the Sun Chiefs each home game watching the scoreboard and the players on the field. Perhaps it is Larker’s ties to the Majors but thirty seven former Sun Chiefs have gone on to play professional ball. Perhaps the most well-known of these players is Turner Ward. Ward was drafted in 1990 by the Toronto Blue Jays as their starting right fielder. During his 10-year pro career he worked towards a .251 batting average with three seasons of standout hitting above .348. Ward played the majority of his career as a designated hitter, ending his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. Other notables who have been drafted into the majors include George Bergstrom who was drafted as a catcher by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976; Clayton Stevens, drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1994; and Scott Sealy, drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1992 and who is now a coach in Alabama at the collegiate level.
Each season the fans of central Alabama are treated to the delight of competitive baseball at Faulkner State, glued to their seats and the wonderful 1550 LED scoreboard, one of many baseball scoreboards manufactured by Electro-Mech, as the Sun Chiefs slug it out on the field below.