As members of the Coastal Plain League, a confederation of top college players staying hot for the summer, the Wilson Tobs kick off the 2012 season with a matchup against their North Division rivals, the Petersburg Generals. In the past, the Tobs' roster has helped cultivate such star players as current Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander. This year, Clemson first baseman Joe Costigan returns to the Tobs dugout along with St. Louis University pitcher Jon Levin, whose four wins tied for the team lead in 2011. The Tobs kick off their cleats at their home field, Fleming Stadium, a hallowed park whose 73-year history has seen appearances by the likes of Elvis Presley—the King himself—and Mickey Mantle—a player notorious for gyrating his hips before every swing.
In a 2011 interview with the Rocky Mount Telegram, George Millar reveals he has been a facilitating fun for a long time. "Soccer wasn't in existence when we started," he points out, and neither were home video games. Noticing a dearth of places in his hometown where kids and families could safely enjoy themselves, he put his skills as a professional contractor to work. In 10 outdoor batting cages, he installed pitching machines that sling baseballs and softballs from T-ball speeds up to 80 miles per hour. Next, he and his crew of five guys—all of whom are still operating the business today—built an 18-hole mini-golf course modeled after those in Myrtle Beach, designing a path that winds past waterfalls, natural plantings, and tricky bunkers filled with saltwater taffy. An arcade blares with games and the crack of pool balls ricocheting inside, and an elephant-shaped inflatable bounce house bobs with jumpers inside until they come zipping out down its slide.
Nine holes fill the par 35 course at Peachtree Hills Country Club, their undulating fairways and bunkers surrounded by natural pine. From the back tees, the holes total 2,718 yards in length, challenging golfers to master the timeless art of racing a cart to the end in under two minutes.
Designed by prolific course architect Willard Byrd, Timberlake Country Club's 18-hole course plots a 6,579-yard trail across a Lake Murray peninsula as it dips southward into the glassy waters. Picturesque views of the lake abound throughout the round—because of its proximity to the lake, the club offers free docking and shore-side pickup for those who wish to arrive by boat or seahorse—and the supersized pool's watery fingers come into play on seven holes. Rounds culminate with dramatic flair at the signature 18th hole, a 483-yard par 5 where a mid-fairway water hazard looms on the business end of a blind tee shot, raising the stakes for players who unsheathe their driver in the hopes of reaching the green in two.
Alongside the grassy course, neon yellow orbs slice through the air at Timberlake Country Club's tennis courts, where tennis pro Mark Gardiner teaches students to hit a forehand passing shot or incite an earthquake with a deafening grunt. The club also houses diverse dining facilities to curb appetites or host social events.
Spring Bank Equestrian Center is an equine playland equipped with pristine facilities including a 17-stall barn, a jumping ring, and a lighted, covered arena. Throughout the year, head trainer Cynthia Cooke uses her well-appointed stomping grounds for instructing students on proper riding technique, a life calling that won her the East Coast Trainer of the Year award in 2010.