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NC State’s Elliott Avent spends Father’s Day as ‘most fortunate man in the world’ with the Pack

image_6483441 (3)by:Noah Fleischman06/16/24


OMAHA, Neb. — NC State junior catcher Jacob Cozart needed surgery this past summer, and he told Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent that it was scheduled for 6:45 a.m. Cozart, the Pack’s starting backstop, needed to be there at 6 a.m.

But he was just keeping his skipper in the loop, not thinking anything of it. What followed was something Cozart didn’t expect. 

He walked into the hospital and Avent was already there. He arrived 15 minutes before Cozart was scheduled to get there to wait for him. Once Cozart went into surgery, Avent waited with his family for the two-hour procedure and made sure his player was OK. 

It’s a small glimpse into the role Avent has with his players, but the coach has taken a larger role in the lives of the hundreds of players that have worn the Wolfpack uniform.

“That’s the kind of man he is,” Cozart said. “And I just want that to be known.”

Now, on Father’s Day, the Wolfpack is still playing. NC State, the No. 10 national seed, is preparing for its College World Series elimination game against Florida on Monday afternoon, but it means more with the holiday. 

Avent, who lost his father shortly before the 2021 season, thought that was who helped the Wolfpack to Omaha that season. Although it ended prematurely due to COVID-19 protocols, that Father’s Day three years was a tough one for Avent. 

The 68-year-old doesn’t have any kids, though, and he wishes he did.

“I never had the greatest pleasure in life, and that’s to have a child,” Avent said. “I missed out on that and I regret that. I’ve lived a long life and I have three regrets and that’s one of them — the biggest one.”

But in a way, Avent does have kids — the 40 players on his roster each year. 

And it doesn’t matter how long his players have been on the roster, either. Graduate first baseman Garrett Pennington, who transferred in from Wichita State in the offseason, called Avent his “second father.”

“You can take the baseball stuff out of it,” Pennington said. “He’s one of the best human beings you can ask for. The way that guy cares about a human being, you’re not his player. You’re one of his sons.”

It’s a role that seems to have kept Avent going in the dugout for the Wolfpack. He has spent the last 28 seasons at the helm of NC State, the program he grew up idolizing, and Avent has treated each and every player like their one of his own. 

He doesn’t take that responsibility lightly. Avent embraces it.

“That’s what I do,” Avent said. “That’s what I’ve always done. My responsibility, as I said during COVID, is not to be their parent, but to be there in lieu of their parents. When you do that, you don’t make parental decisions. You don’t influence them on politics or whether to get a shot. That’s not your job, that’s a parental thing. And I take that responsibility caring for these parents’ most precious possessions very seriously and I do the best I can.”

As Avent continued to reflect on his role within his players’ lives, he became increasingly appreciative. 

“I’m the most fortunate man in the world. Lou Gehrig said that on the baseball field. He said he’s the luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” Avent said. “Growing up a poor tobacco farmer, who didn’t have the brains or the athleticism to play college baseball, to live the life I’ve lived, I’ll [repeat] Lou Gehrig’s comments: I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

While Avent takes pride in his role within the Wolfpack’s players’ lives, Father’s Day in Omaha is something that NC State’s players seemed to be delighted with. 

Cozart, who grew up in a baseball family, promised his dad at a young age that he’d get him to the College World Series. He did just that, and can enjoy their day together before the Pack’s next game. 

“This is the perfect place to do it,” Cozart said. “Here we are, especially on Father’s Day, I get to go spend it with him.”

Pennington, who grew up a few hours away from Omaha in Lenexa, Kan., also was looking forward to spending time with his father while he’s on college baseball’s biggest stage. 

“It’s been really awesome,” Pennington said. “My dad, looking to spend some time with him, and you can’t ask for a better place to be for Father’s Day. It’s been pretty cool and it’s a great experience.

But for all of the Wolfpack players, Avent has been there for them as a father figure in Raleigh. That, more than anything else about the skipper, means the world to his players.

“He’s our mentor, he’s our coach,” Cozart said, “and he cares more than anyone out there.”

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