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Mowing his own outfield: How the Providence High School baseball coach breeds work ethic ahead of state championship

Providence enters the state championship series undefeated and ranked No. 1. But for coach Danny Hignight, it's not about wins but knowing the value of hard work.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Providence High School will play for a baseball state championship this weekend in a best-of-three series starting Friday. 

The Panthers will take on Pinecrest at 5 p.m. Friday with the second game scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Panthers enter the championship series a perfect 32-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. They're ranked third nationally on the strength of their undefeated season. 

But for longtime Providence baseball coach Danny Hignight, it's about a lot more than wins. In fact, you can usually catch him on a mower trimming the outfield more often than coaching drills. 

"I mow five days a week," he said. "I mow a lot."

That's five days a week, every week, for the past 19 years. That's some 4,500 times he's mowed the Providence outfield. 

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It's easy to get caught up in the numbers. The Panthers have zero losses this season, they've won 21 conference championships and 15 players have gone on to be drafted with three Major League Baseball players coming through the program. 

It took Hignight 11 years to win a state title, finally accomplishing that feat in 2015. Of course, the moment really sank in the next time he was mowing the field.

“I’ll never forget when we won it in '15, I was mowing from second to center and I stopped the mower and I started crying because that was something I had thought about for at that time, 11 years and we finally accomplished it,” Hignight said.

This year's team can accomplish it again this weekend. For Hignight, though, it's not about the perfect record or any stats they pile up along the way. 

"I truly believe you've got to get your hands dirty in life and work hard," he said. 

Work ethic is what makes this year's team special. Hignight shows it by keeping the lines on the field straight, washing uniforms and hanging them back up in lockers. He goes through the trouble because he knows a group of impressionable young men is watching. 

“I love the relationships, I love to watch them grow up,” Hignight said. 

And he has watched kids grow up. He said he averages about eight weddings a year and talks to his old players about their new kids. That’s why he coaches.

“When I’m dead and gone, nobody is going to remember how many games I won. They won't," Hignight said. "But I might've coached your son and impacted his life, and he became a better father or a better husband. Maybe."

They're better baseball players, too. The team will compete to win two games out of three this weekend for that prestigious state championship. 

“Don’t get me wrong, we want to win this weekend," Hignight said. "But in reality, it's about when you're gone, what impact did you make on the world?"

On Monday, no matter the outcome, he’ll be back on his mower setting an example of hard work.

As of Friday night, the team is off to a good start, winning Game 1 3-0.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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