WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s nearly time to play ball. Once again the Wilmington Sharks roster will have a distinctive local flavor. What local players will be on the 2016 roster?
Ward Coleman – Davidson – New Hanover
Clark Cota – UNCW – Topsail
Ryan Jeffers – UNCW
Shelton Perkins – ECU – North Brunswick
The Wilmington Sharks will open the 2016 season at home at Buck Hardee Field on May 31 against the Morehead City Marlins.
WILMINGTON SHARKS (SHARKS RELEASE) — Be on the lookout for two local Sharks patrolling The Tank’s mound this Summer. Cape Fear’s own Clark Cota and Shelton Perkins will be sporting blue and white come May 31st, when the Sharks open up at home against Morehead City.
Besides hailing from the same area, they’re also Freshmen at North Carolina Universities. Cota, raised in Hampstead, attends UNCW, and Perkins, a Leland native, currently resides at East Carolina University. On top of that, they’re both starting, right-handed pitchers, which means they’ll share something else this upcoming season – the same workspace.
Having been friends for some time, it sounds like they’ll be working quite well together. “Shelton’s a great friend of mine. We’ve known each other for three or four years now. Him and I text and talk all the time, and visit each other whenever we have a chance,” says Cota. “We’re really close. That’s going to make this summer even better, playing with him.”
As the two eagerly wait to earn their fins, at the tail end of their initial college seasons, they aim to bring to The Sharks what they’ve learned so far this Spring. “I’m adjusting pretty well now as the season has progressed,” Perkins states. “Early on it was pretty tough because you have to learn you can’t make as many mistakes as you could in high school, or the hitter is going to make you pay.” Cota harps on a parallel point, explaining, “The game’s a lot quicker. But that raises your level of competitiveness and focus.”
Asked how they plan to carry that competitiveness into games this Summer, and what they expect of their experience, Shelton, a four-time letter winner for North Brunswick High School pointed to The Sharks’ reputation combined with his own beliefs and poise. “Growing up right around here, I know about the great atmosphere surrounding The Sharks organization. I know that good teams and championships are expected and I can’t wait to be a part of that. My goals for this season are to go out and give all I have every time I’m out there and win. That’s what I’m about.” Supposedly the entire Perkins pedigree displays the same enthusiasm. “Being from the area, my family is huge and will probably be loud, and at every game, so just be prepared,” the former Conference and Leland Hot Stove League player-of-the-year honoree says, with a smile.
Cota feels similarly about the organization and community as well. “I see all the news and tweets come summertime, and how excited everyone gets. It’s just a great atmosphere for families and I know the people of Wilmington love to come out and watch the guys, especially when there are local products. No one directly from Wilmington’s playing this year, but Shelton and I are pretty close.” Meanwhile, Clark’s individual goals are tied to a unique challenge the young right-hander is still in the process of overcoming.
In the early going of his Senior season at Topsail High School, Cota, also a four-time letter winner who led that team to a 3A State title just a year prior, suffered an injury that required Tommy John surgery in his pitching arm. Having undergone that procedure last June, he describes how he’s feeling about 10 months into the rehabilitation process. “The biggest thing is patience,” he’s learned. “It’s starting to feel more normal every time I pick up a ball. I’m probably another month or two away from stepping on the mound in a game.”
Entering the final stages of his return to action, the current Seahawks, and soon to be Sharks hurler eyes what looks like an auspicious timetable. “Hopefully I’ll be able to throw in the postseason for UNCW, but if not, I’ll probably be making my first collegiate appearance for The Sharks, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.” What a delight that may be for Wilmington supporters… “It would be great to do it here so all my friends and family can be present, as well as my coaches. That’ll be an exciting time for me,” he continues, with a hint of anticipation in his voice.
Speaking of making a comeback from a disruptive arm injury, Cota’s big league hero forged a similar path in the MLB. “My favorite player undoubtedly is Matt Harvey. I love that ESPN ‘E:60’ on him since he had Tommy John, too. I’ve probably watched it about 10 times, and he’s somebody who’s level I strive to hopefully get to be at one day.”
Funny enough, Perkins also looks up to a young starting pitcher in the majors who he can relate to. “Marcus Stroman. We have similar size but the passion he pitches with is how I want to be.” With that said, Clark and Shelton cheer for the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, respectively, so maybe the young pair of aces don’t have everything in common.
Either way, Sharks fans should expect to witness a dynamic duo on the hill at Buck Hardee field when the season begins in just over a month. While you hold your breath, don’t be surprised to run into them around town. Both are fond of the “salt life”, and frequent the beach. You might even spot Cota downtown supporting one of his UNCW teammates performing at The Reel Cafe.
However, once that final day of May strikes, it’s go-time according to Perkins. “Playing with Clark and seeing how good and competitive he is makes me better. I can’t wait to be reunited with my boy!”
Much can be written about their combined accolades, so be sure to check out The Sharks’ roster for more information and stats!