Johnston County baseball legend Sam Narron made a career out of his dedication to the game of baseball. He spent his summers after his playing days passing along a helpful word to many a young player in the county and offering a motivating look at one of those World Series rings.
Narron’s life in baseball drew a direct connection from the greats of the game, including legends like Branch Rickey, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby and many more sports and entertainment legends like Babe Dedrickson and Chuck Connors back to his Johnston County roots. He’s the patriarch of a family that has sent nine players into professional baseball.
The family, led by Rooster Narron, brings some of that legacy to the future of one Johnston County Schools senior baseball player every year with the Sam Narron Baseball Award and accompanying scholarship that goes to a player who separates himself from the pack with his determination, dedication and sacrifice on and off of the baseball diamond.
Enter the 5-foot-8 and 150-pound left-handed sparkplug for the Cleveland Rams, Ryan Flores.
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“Ryan has spent his entire life being told he was too small to play baseball,” said Cleveland coach Jamie Lee. “He has been determined to prove those who say that wrong.”
On the field, Flores was a key part of Cleveland’s run to a school record 21 wins and the Two Rivers 3A Conference championship. He went 7-2 on the mound, pitching two no-hitters and earning Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. Offensively, he posted a batting average of .410 for his career as the Rams’ lead off man with 35 stolen bases.
All of this came after he entered the 2015 season not knowing if he’d be able to pitch effectively again after suffering an arm injury in 2014.
The Flores family also endured a medical challenge when Ryan’s father, Dan, suffered three separate strokes in the fall of 2015. The hardship didn’t deter Ryan’s work in the classroom (where he posted a 4.38 GPA), on the field or from his part-time job at a local grocery store.
“I’ve put a lot of work in the game because that’s what you have to do in baseball,” Flores said. “And I feel like I’ve starting to see it pay off.”
Flores also traveled on a mission trip with Purpose Driven Baseball to the Czech Republic last summer to teach the game of baseball and to gain an understanding of the challenges playing sports in other countries.
“It just humbled me,” Flores said of the trip. “It made me realize that there are people out there who don’t have everything we have here in baseball, like the equipment, who love the game just as much as we do here. It was impressive seeing them still get after it every day and enjoying every minute of the game.”
Flores said he realized during his freshman year of high school that succeeding in baseball was going to take a ton of work.
“It was always my goal to play college baseball,” he said. “But that year was the year I really dedicated myself to go after it. That meant being at the field every day, doing everything I could to make it happen.”
He realized that dream in the fall when he signed to play in college.
Flores has shifted into the next phase of his career, eyeing the future he’ll enjoy as part of the Lander University baseball program. The Bearcats finished third in the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship earlier this month.
“It’s a program I already love and I love the way they compete,” Flores said. “I’m just going in with the mindset of figuring out how I can help the team improve on that third place national finish next year. I’ve very excited about going there.”