Wednesday, March 30, 2016
DEAR UNC: IT'S TIME TO HONOR GRAFTON GARNES
UNC raised almost $26 million to renovate Boshamer Stadium, a wonderful playground
for its baseball program constructed on a spectacular piece of real estate in Chapel Hill,
North Carolina. For any baseball player dreaming of playing for the Tar Heels, it was love
at first sight--and that was before the school broke ground in 2008 to make it even better.
It was that special.
When it reopened in 2009, the Boshamer Stadium got a stunning facelift that would make
any plastic surgeon in Hollywood envious. A 35-year-old stadium looked brand spanking
new with all the amenities and bells and whistles. The field (Bryson) got a new name thanks
to a large donation by a former first baseman.
The courtyard in front of the stadium is "Steinbrenner Court", thanks to a $1 million gift
by the Steinbrenners. Yes, those Steinbrenners, as in the New York Yankees, who played
in the old Boshamer Stadium in the late 70's.
There are family names on a number of other rooms and features, depending on how much
they gave to the program for the renovation project. I chipped in $500 to get my name on
a list with many of my good friends and former teammates that is etched on a piece of slab
out in front of the stadium.
However, there is one name that is missing who contributed far more than me and even
the Steinbrenners who wrote that check for a cool $1 million:
Garnes never played a game at UNC but he was as valuable to the program as B.J. Surhoff,
Walt Weiss, Scott Bankhead, and Matt Harvey. Garnes spent 20 years as the equipment
manager for the baseball program and helped make the Tar Heel experience really special.
After every game and every practice, Garnes made sure the uniforms were fresh and
clean. He was the person who handed you the nearly pristine Tar Heel uniform to wear
for game day, making you realize it truly was a privilege to put it on and represent
the great University of North Carolina.
Garnes was the steady ship in waters that would often be rough and challenging. He never
got too high nor too low. He treated every player the same, whether he was a superstar like
B.J. Surhoff or the last guy at the end of the bench. Former Tar Heel Jeff Bradley said,
"You could trust your life with him. What was said in The Cage stayed in The Cage.
And he saw and heard a lot."
Garnes was cooler than the other side of the pillow long before former Tar Heel and the
late Stuart Scott made the saying a household phrase. He served our country in Viet Nam
and helped make our home away from home, Boshamer Stadium, an incredible place.
Garnes was usually the first person we saw entering the clubhouse and the last one upon
leaving late at night. He burned the midnight oil washing more than 35 uniforms and
accessory bags every single day for almost 10 months.
It's not hyperbole when I say that nobody, not even the coaches, spent more time in
the old Boshamer Stadium than Grafton Garnes. He was part of the fabric, concrete,
and steel of that stadium.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to signify Garnes' place or contribution in the new stadium.
There isn't a picture, plaque, or award dedicated in his honor. Every Tar Heel who knew
Garnes has a special place in their hearts and minds for the guy we called, "G-Man" or
simply "G." But there is nothing of Garnes in the place they call the "Bosh."
Garnes died several years ago, but he will never be forgotten by any of us. But it's time
UNC baseball does something to let everyone know how special and important Garnes
was to the program and the old and new stadium.
It's time to make a plaque in his honor.
When I went back to UNC last fall to tour the stadium, I sincerely felt Garnes' presence.
I almost expected him to come around a corner with his stylish hat, sunglasses, and
tooth pick hanging out from his mouth. I was ready to say, "What's up, G?"
But Grafton was gone, off to the Southern part of Heaven in the sky. However, there
should be something in the dream stadium to make sure Grafton Garnes will always
be remembered and given the credit that is due.