Perhaps one of the biggest and most slept-on free agent signings of the 2020 offseason was the Atlanta Braves signing of outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The “Big Bear” signed a one-year, $18 million contract to come to Atlanta in late January. This contract was very similar to the one-year, $23 million that brought third baseman Josh Donaldson to Atlanta for the 2019 season. This contract helped Donaldson have a rejuvenated season in Atlanta and in result, he signed a mega 4-year, $92 million deal with the Twins this offseason. That poses the question after the season that Ozuna has had this year with the Braves: will The Big Bear stay or will he go?
There is no denying it, Ozuna has had a HUGE season to this point. Yes, it is a 60-game season. Yes, there are some players who opted out. Yes, baseball games are being played under weird rules. The National League has a designated hitter for the first time in the history of baseball. Doubleheaders are only seven innings a piece. In extra innings, a runner starts on second. However, despite all of this, Marcell Ozuna is still having a HUGE season. Through 50 games, Ozuna has a .314 batting average, 14 home runs, 44 runs batted in and a 1.5 WAR. To give context here, if the MLB was playing a 162-game season this season, Ozuna would be on pace to hit 45 home runs and 143 RBIs. In other words, Ozuna is having a HUGE season. However, is this good or bad for Braves fans? Yes, obviously it is good that Ozuna is producing for Atlanta, unless you are not a Braves fan. Yes, Ozuna is contributing to the Braves second seed in the National League right now. Yes, he is a sleeper for NL MVP right now. However, the way he is playing could lead to his departure for a bigger contract, a better team and the single-season wonder of the Big Bear will fall into cracks of other great remarkable seasons.
The Braves and the city of Atlanta needs Marcell Ozuna, and Marcell Ozuna needs us. He needs the fans. He needs the Braves. He needs the money. He needs the recognition from the rest of the league right now. However, how much longer will this last? The Braves need to pursue the Big Bear this offseason and give him a big pay day.
A great man once said, “Legends never die.” In many cases, the legacy that someone carries follows them long after they retire and leave this world. Maxie Skinner’s legacy at Piedmont College is still very much so alive. However, Livia Skinner plans to not only keep the Skinner name alive, but continue the Skinner legacy on and off the court.
“My grandfather is the reason why I came here,” said junior Piedmont guard Livia Skinner. “If it wasn’t for him, I would not even know about Piedmont.”
Piedmont found Livia Skinner. After playing basketball for two years at the University of North Georgia, it was time for her to come back to her roots. She was recruited out of high school by Piedmont College, but made the decision to attend UNG. After transferring to Piedmont, Skinner thinks her time at UNG will benefit the Lady Lions.
“I have brought over a lot of experience. It is two different competition levels,” said Livia Skinner. “Regardless, I think I can just help carry the team and carry over what I learned from North Georgia.”
Between playing at a Division II school for the past two seasons and the greatness of her grandfather at Piedmont College, there would be a preconceived notion that Livia Skinner has a lot of pressure to perform this season. However, she doesn’t feel the pressure.
“I do not feel too much pressure,” said Skinner. “Not a lot of my teammates know about him. Personally, it is a good bit of pressure with my family and I just want to live up to his expectations.”
Following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Maxie Skinner, Livia has big expectations to live up to. Maxie Skinner left a legacy at Piedmont College and in Habersham County, Georgia that people remember. Maxie Skinner played basketball and baseball at Piedmont College. He became the college’s first ever NAIA All-American when he averaged 32.8 points per game in his senior season of 1956. Over his career, he scored more than 2,000 points on the hardwood for the Lions. This was well before the 3-point line was implemented into the game of basketball. Skinner was also a standout baseball player, and he was inducted into the Piedmont College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. He was also inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Maxie’s legacy is unbelievable. He is one of the forefathers of Piedmont Athletics,” said Piedmont College Athletic Director Jim Peeples. “Maxie should be in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, as he was a legendary high school and college basketball player.”
Maxie Skinner was also known and loved as Coach Skinner at Piedmont College. After coaching at Toccoa High School and serving a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, Skinner returned to Banks County High School where he coached for 19 years. He then returned to Habersham to serve as the Director of the Habersham County Parks and Recreation Center from 1978-1984. Finally, Coach Skinner made his way back home. He served as the Athletic Director and men’s basketball coach at Piedmont for nine years. During his tenure, he also coached women’s basketball, softball and golf.
“There was such a strong tie between Maxie and the basketball team, which was primarily his main focus,” said Jim Peeples. “I was really proud we could honor Maxie and retire his legacy a few years ago. When we had our Maxie Skinner day, there were well over 100 of his former players and people here that day. The lives that he impacted were crystal clear that day when you saw the love for that guy.”
Livia Skinner knows the legacy and the meaning that the last name “Skinner” means at Piedmont College. Every time anyone walks into the Mize Athletic Center, Maxie Skinner’s jersey can be seen hung up. His name is still mentioned around. His name is still very well visible in the Piedmont record books. His name is still recognized as one of the greatest coaches, players and people in the history of the school. However, Livia Skinner just wants people to see her grandfather through her and her on-court play.
“I just want people who knew my grandfather or know of my grandfather to see me and be reminded of how good of a basketball player he was,” said Livia Skinner. “Even if they didn’t know who he was, I just want to make another statement for the Skinner family name at Piedmont and keep the family name going.”
Forrest Gump once stated, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” This could not be more of a factual statement. Life has throw a lot at me in my eighteen and a half years of life so far. However, I would not change any of my experiences on this earth at all.
I was born in a small South Carolina town by the name of Spartanburg on May 19, 2001. I was raised in Union, SC, another small town nearby. My life has been one that involves Jesus Christ, sports, and family. I began going to church as a toddler, and I have gone ever since. I became a Christian at the age of five and Jesus Christ has always played a big role in my life. Sports have literally been in my life since before my mother even conceived me. As the only child, my father had the perfect name picked out for his only son. My father named me “Brett” after two great baseball players: Brett Butler, former centerfielder for the Atlanta Braves, and George Brett, Hall of Fame third baseman from the Kansas City Royals. My mother went along with this name because she had always loved the former Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Jesus Christ, sports, and family are three pillars in my life that also have helped me reach new heights and led me to places I thought I would never go.
Before entering high school, I transferred school districts and enrolled at Clinton High School in Clinton, SC. To this day, that was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. The town and community of Clinton created a second family for me, but also opened many doors for me that otherwise would have not been able to happen. Through Clinton High School, I learned of a program at Clemson University called the Summer Scholars Program. Through this program, middle school and high school students are able to experience the lives of a Clemson student for one week in the summer. This program was made for me, because my childhood dream school was Clemson. So, in the summer before my senior year of high school, I attended a sports communications at Clemson. There, I met another rising senior from Asheville, NC by the name of Colby Cook. Colby’s dream was the same as mine, which is to become one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time. Colby and I bonded over the week of the camp and we stayed in touch after the camp. We both applied to Clemson in August, and in February, we both found out that we were waitlisted by Clemson. This meant that Colby and I were neither rejected nor accepted. At the time, this was devastating news because my college future in up in the air. The only school I had applied to was Clemson. However, looking back on this moment, God was again working in a mysterious way.
After I got waitlisted by Clemson, Colby told me about a small private institution in Georgia by the name of Piedmont College. He knew that the both of us were going to go to college for sports communications, and Colby could not stop bragging about Piedmont’s sports communications program. I listened to Colby and I applied to Piedmont. I visited, I fell in love, and I committed. I could have not went through more of a tough process. My childhood dream of attending Clemson University was not meant to be. However, my dream of becoming the greatest sports broadcaster of all-time is still alive. Coming to Piedmont College was one of the best decisions I ever made. As a second year student thus far at Piedmont, I have joined The Roar as the sports editor, became the Assistant Radio Station of WPCZ and the President of Piedmont Debate. I have also became the unofficial “voice of the Piedmont Lions” as I am also involved with broadcasting Piedmont sports. My journey thus far has brought me to Georgia. However, my story is still being written. After all, like Forrest said, “You never know what you are going to get.”
The COVID-19 pandemic moved the second annual Piedmont College Symposium to a virtual platform, but organizers say the event was still a success with 138 students presenting their research and more than 1,000 views on the event website.
Even though there has been a lot of promoting and conversation about the Syposium, Dr. Julia Schmitz, QEP Director and Chair of the Piedmont Symposium Committee, recognized that there were still some who were unsure of the event.
“We have to build up momentum because it is new,” said Dr. Schmitz. “People are still a little bit undecided about it.”
This confusion grew when the symposium was moved online. There were many who wondered how the symposium would be done virtually or who would even attend. Others wondered who would be able to put together an online forum for students to present in. Enter Dr. Melissa Tingle, QEP Assessment Fellow and mass communications professor.
“My role shifted considerably when we had to move the symposium online. At one point, we did not think we would have a symposium at all,” said Dr. Tingle. “However, Dr. Schmitz and I sat down, talked it all through and I decided since I am the web design teacher, that I should design a website for the symposium.”
However, Dr. Tingle still faced the challenge of putting everything together in a very short amount of time and being able to get it approved by the administration. Working through the time crunch, Dr. Schmitz and Dr. Tingle were determined to find a way to allow students who had finished their research to be able to present at the Symposium.
“I only had about 48 hours to come up with a structure and a game plan to submit to the administration so that we could get their approval,” Dr. Tingle said. “I was able to build the website in about 24 hours and then once we got the approval from everyone, we just started to program as much as we could.”
Students were indeed able to present their research at the Piedmont Symposium virtually and just as planned on the Symposium’s originally scheduled day, April 15. Student presenters were appreciative of being able to present online. Many of these students had finished their research well before the symposium was shifted to a virtual platform, and they wanted to be able share their findings. Freshman Computer Science major Christophe Donsereaux was still very excited and pleased with how his presentation went.
“Presenting was great. We would have rather done it in person, but presenting online still impacted us very well,” Donsereaux said. “I think the symposium is a great thing. It shows other students how their peers are working in other classrooms and majors. I hope that the symposium continues.”
Looking forward to future Piedmont Symposiums, Dr. Tingle is really invested in the idea of how the virtual aspect can be involved with the face to face presentations. She also wants to see a few new outside faces involved with and attending the symposium.
“Moving forward, we want to see how we can keep the website going and integrate the virtual component with the face to face component without taking away from either,” Dr. Tingle said. “We also want to get the outside community and professional networks involved. These students are presenting this great research, so how cool would it be to have professionals come in to give you critique and potentially offering you an internship?”
The 2020 Piedmont Symposium was a success. Even though moving to a virtual platform cut the presentations from 300 to about 138, there was still a lot of viewership. There were 692 people present at the live zoom presentations, as well as the Piedmont Symposium website had 1,100 views on the day of the symposium. There was great research presented, many missed faces seen and a Piedmont College community reunited during this difficult time. Dr. Tingle gave an insight to how everyone felt that had involvement with the symposium.
“We really did have a great time,” said Dr. Tingle. “The students’ presentations were top notch. I can only imagine what it would have been if we would have done it face to face.”
Piedmont’s Vice President of Advancement, Craig Rogers, has only been at the College since July, however, he has already fallen in love.
“I love the liberal arts here at Piedmont. I also love the diverse curriculum at such an amazing school,” Rogers said with excitement. “It is such a cliche saying, but Piedmont’s a ‘diamond in the rough’ with the arts, theater and music on one side, the nursing and business school on the other side and still have this liberal arts core with the education program.”
Rogers is a family man. He lives in Clarksville with his wife and their two sons, Caleb and Connor, who attend school at Piedmont. Rogers is very excited about his job here at Piedmont, but even more ecstatic about how much Piedmont and this area is able to give back to him.
“I have two sons here, and as a customer, I am really happy. As someone who has to market and raise money for the school, it’s a wonderful thing,” Rogers said, adding that he enjoys the work environment. “I like the people I work with quite a bit. Dr. Mellichamp is a great leader, and the other three vice presidents are all really wonderful people. We all have different strengths, and it creates a powerful group.”
Rogers graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, and he earned a master’s in education from Averett University. He has been working in advancement for 33 years now. He has since worked at five schools: Woodberry Forest Boarding School, Mars Hill College, Hampden-Sydney College, Longwood University and Hargrave Military Academy, serving as a leader in advancement and development positions. Rogers has also worked for a Catholic Hospital System and the V Foundation in similar roles. However, after all of these stops, Rogers found Piedmont in a lucky way.
“It was luck finding Piedmont,” he said. “A guy that works for Myers McRae that does professional headhunting called me and asked if I would be interested. I was through with working for the Marines, and I applied for the job here. Over the course of three or four months and talking to people and waiting things out, I ended up getting the offer for the job, and it is great. This is the best job I have ever had.”