Arm surgeries derailed Chris Wilkins' hopes for a pro baseball career.
His career as a professional long-drive competitor was pushed aside when he realized the woman he was dating would probably become his wife.
And on Monday, after being officially introduced as Greenbrier's new baseball coach, he told Wolfpack players and parents he is now in a profession he loves.
"I put this hat on with great pride," Wilkins told them. "There's a lot of pride in this community."
Wilkins takes over as the Wolfpack's head coach after four years as head baseball coach at Richmond Academy. Before that, he was an assistant at Westminster. And before that, he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do.
He'd played at Westside for coach Gerald Barnes, and later pitched for South Georgia College and for Georgia College and State University.
Wilkins had dreams of joining his cousin, Rick Wilkins, as a Major League Baseball player.
"There was never a doubt in my mind," Chris Wilkins told those gathered in Greenbrier's media center. "I never thought I'd stop playing."
But Wilkins' arm failed him. After two surgeries, his playing career was done.
That's how he found himself rubbing shoulders with John Daly in Las Vegas. Wilkins beat Daly to win the 2002 Pinnacle Distance Championship with a drive of 358 yards.
"I'll never forget that number, because it won me $10,000," Wilkins said. "Back then, I thought $10,000 made me rich."
He wasn't sure how Daly, once a fixture as the PGA Tour's driving distance leader, would react to being shown up by an amateur.
"He was just a super guy," Wilkins said. "He said, 'Man, I love watching you hit a golf ball.' "
Wilkins turned pro in 2003 and made a living traveling the country, launching golf balls as far as he could. But he soon realized it wasn't a lifestyle he wanted to continue.
He'd started dating his future wife, Rebecca, and wanted to settle down. The couple's son, Peyton, turned 1 on May 8.
"Honestly, golf's not my thing," Wilkins said. "Baseball's my thing. (Golf) was something I could do when I was single, but not now."
So Wilkins returned to Augusta, where he coached Westminster's pitchers before landing the head coaching job at Richmond Academy.
"We're happy to have coach Wilkins on board," Greenbrier Athletic Director Garrett Black said. "If you played for coach Barnes, you're going to know baseball."
Wilkins replaces Wolfpack coach Rodney Holder, who is pursuing a job as head football coach and athletic director at Grovetown High School.
During Wilkins' address to Greenbrier's parents and players, his topics included his coaching philosophy and his faith. Wilkins, who said he became a Christian when he was 17, told the parable of the good Samaritan.
"I'm not going to go beat people upside the head with my Bible," Wilkins said. "But I promise you, I will show your sons what compassion is all about. We're going to learn to love each other, man."
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