By Gordon Anderson |

Even with a mural of one-time Sanford Spinners star Howard Auman going up along Horner Boulevard in 2015, evidence in the city that the Spinners ever existed had sort of hidden in plain sight.

The old ballpark in east Sanford. The aforementioned mural. The memories and stories of those who remain from that era. Those few things accounted until just this year for much of the proof that Sanford ever had a baseball team to call its own.

Click image to access the digital edition of the July 2021 Rant Monthly

That changed in the spring with the announcement that a North Carolina-based collegiate summer league, the Old North State League, would be bringing a team to town. And what better way to pay homage to Sanford’s baseball history than to use the name of the team that made the region so proud all those decades ago?

So as of June 7 of this year, the Spinners have not just a history in Sanford, but also a present — and a future.

That was the day the Old North State League iteration of the Spinners took the field for the first time at Southern Lee High School’s Tramway Park against the Fayetteville Chutes. Sanford won its opener 8-7 on a walk-off double by catcher Nick Fakouri.

Fakouri, a rising sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, is one of many talented Spinners that Head Coach Jeremy Palme has his eye on.

“I’ll be putting the captain’s C on his jersey as soon as I can,” said Palme, who also serves as the Lee County Yellow Jackets’ junior varsity head coach. “His talent and his professionalism are all there.”

Since that first game, the Spinners have had mixed success, with a record of 6-10 as their first month came to a close. And while winning is at the top of mind for everyone involved – certainly the players – Palme says there are plenty of other considerations.

“My big message to the team from day one has been maintaining health and to put them going into the fall in a better position,” he said.

Still, Palme has been pleased with the atmosphere and the team’s performance so far, and he has a number of reasons to believe the squad will be able to build on its successes.

“We’ve had a couple injuries, but for what we have I think the pitching has been better than what we thought it would be,” he said. “Even with the high scoring games, I feel like defensive miscues have led to that more than the pitching.”

Additionally, the Spinners as of this writing have played the highest number of games in the league. Combine that with the fact that the team started its season five days later than the rest of the league, and the latter part of the campaign — regular play ends July 21 — looks far more relaxed for the Spinners than the first half.

Spinners head coach Jeremy Palme and Sanford Mayor Chet Mann on opening day in June.

Palme’s approach on the field is one of positivity — when his team is at bat, he assumes the role of third base coach, and from there he can be heard during the games giving words of encouragement to each player who approaches the dish. “Let’s have an at bat here,” he might say, or “that’s a beautiful set of pupils” to a batter who takes a pitch out of the strike zone.

“I try to be very positive,” he said. “There’s a lot of what we call chirping during games and I’ve just really tried to stress to my guys that we can talk, but we’re going to talk positive to our guys. I want this team to operate as a family, and we win and we lose as a family.”

The return of the Spinners means more than competitive summer baseball in a growing city. It means the return of a team that has a rich history in Sanford —the Spinners were part of city’s rebuilding process in the years after World War II and at the peak of their popularity, drew about 600 people a game at old Temple Park.



Join The Rant at the Sanford Spinners game 7 p.m. on July 14 at Tramway Park adjacent to Southern Lee High School.

We’ll be at the game with copies of our July printed edition of The Rant Monthly, as well as a few goodies for those who want them. Some of us may also be throwing out a first pitch. Gulp.

We hope to see you there!

Spinners players try to ready the field at Tramway Park before an eventual rain delay on June 28. Photo by Billy Liggett

OPINION: New Spinners represent part of Sanford’s growth as a city

At first glance, economic development and baseball might not seem to have much to do with one another.

But make no mistake — the presence of the Sanford Spinners, a collegiate level baseball team named for a minor league team that operated here decades ago and which kicked off its inaugural season in June is another piece of the puzzle that will help Lee County continue to grow.

Just like high quality schools and community colleges, just like the sports complex passed by voters in 2020 (which the Spinners anticipate moving into upon completion), just like unique dining options and craft breweries and farmers markets, and just like new modes of transportation like the passenger rail station that’s almost certainly coming to downtown, the Spinners are more than just what they are — they’re a quality of life amenity. Something the community now offers.

So when the economic development team at the Sanford Area Growth Alliance is meeting with prospective businesses looking to relocate or expand in our community, you can be sure the Spinners will get mentioned. That’s because these companies employ people, and people want something to do. By themselves, any of the things we listed above might be just another thing. But taken together, they paint a picture of a community that offers recreation, dining, culture, and more. In other words, an attractive community.

If you haven’t yet, check out a game (the season runs through July 21). You’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll be helping Sanford and Lee County grow.