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Scholarship Player at Wake Forest

Jim Poole’s dream as a kid was to play Major League Baseball after a stunning career at Ashland High as a pitcher and shortstop.

That’s one reason he attended Wake Forest University on a partial baseball scholarship. The weather in North Carolina was more favorable to extensive scheduling and additional games, the competition was top-notch and the Atlantic Coast Conference was highly regarded. Located in Winston-Salem, the Demon Deacons even played their home games in a minor-league ballpark.

Unfortunately for Poole, who was instrumental in leading Ashland to a state championship in 1966, his dream was never realized.

“A good senior year at Wake Forest might have generated some interest but I developed a sore arm after a good junior season,’’ said Poole, who’s now 65, retired and living in Somerset, Va. “I experimented with throwing a slider and threw it a lot when I pitched in the Boston leagues during the summer. That led to arm trouble.’’

Poole, who hit .320 and had a 6-2 record as a junior, slumped in his final campaign in college, winning only two games and hitting .260. Although Poole didn’t draw any interest from pro scouts, he’s got no regrets. This is because his days at Ashland and at Wake Forest were proof that Poole was a high-octane player, a smart pitcher and a clutch competitor.

At Ashland, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder was absolutely dynamic. He hit .390 as a senior and .410 his junior season. He pitched his senior year and was not only unbeaten during the regular season at 6-0, but he also started all three tournament games and won all of them, downing Norton in the tournament finale for the state crown.

“We went 18-2 my final year and capped the season with the state title,’’ Poole said. “What a great team we had and what a thrill to be state champs. We had a good mix of veterans and younger players, a superb coach in Clem Spillane and the team chemistry was excellent. Everyone was supportive of each other.’’

Poole cited players like Mark Iarussi in centerfield, Dennis Baker at first base, Steve Willard catching, Joe Markarian at third and Earl McLaughlin at second base.

Poole, who relied on pinpoint control, beat Revere, Bourne and Norton in the tourney, and his 9-0 overall record on the mound generated first-team all-state honors in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. Able to mix a fastball, curve and knuckler with a change-up, he also was a two-time Dual County League all-star.

“I have some great memories of that season,’’ Poole said. “My best game was a two-hitter against Bourne in the tourney and my best game at the plate came in the regular season against Lincoln-Sudbury. I had five hits and three RBIs.’’

A three-sport athlete and a co-captain in baseball and basketball, Poole played football as a running back and safety. A guard in basketball, he averaged 14 points a game.

“My best game in basketball was a 28-point effort in a win against Lynnfield,’’ he recalled. “I was average in football but I had a good final game against Hopkinton. I scored on a 20-yard run and had three receptions.’’

Coached by Spillane in football and baseball, Poole rates his late coach at “unique.’’

“There was no coach like Clem,’’ Poole emphasized. “He could motivate you and make you a tougher player. He was a good man and he demanded discipline.’’

After getting his degree in business at Wake Forest, Poole worked first for a publishing company, then later earned a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Virginia. He then worked in a psychiatric hospital, eventually became self-employed as a cabinet-maker, taught woodworking, then spent 20 years as a guidance counselor at an elementary school in Locust Grove, Va. He also coached middle school baseball for 10 years.

Poole is married, and he and his wife Susan have two daughters and two grandchildren. In his leisure time, he enjoys sailing, gardening, hiking and woodworking. Calling his brother Bob, who also was a top-notch athlete, his role model, Poole relied on a philosophy of being competitive, giving 100 percent at all times and enjoying athletics.

As far as being unable to achieve his Major League goal, Poole will be the first to admit that Ashland and Wake Forest were special places.

“Ashland was a great place to grow up and play sports,’’ he emphasized. “It was hard to move away. At Wake Forest, I was in a mix with talented players and was able to compete at that level. I enjoyed that level and we had good team spirit.’’

Jim Poole was a gifted athlete whose work ethic made him a very special player.

by By Ken Hamwey