Always on the same page
Tennessee White Lightnin’ teammates have special bond
BY GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Garrett Calhoun, Ed Tignor and their Tennessee White Lightnin’ teammates know the secret sauce that makes baseball special.
Sure, it’s fun slashing a liner down the right-field line or hearing the crack of the bat or the satisfying plop of a fly ball nestling in your glove on the green grass of an outfield on a sunny day with a sky so blue it doesn’t seem possible anything could be so blue.
But this is baseball, a team sport.
This is Roy Hobbs Baseball, where there are no multi-million dollar contracts or huge crowds or televised games.
Participants play for the love of the game and the camaraderie of others who also love the game.
Calhoun and Tignor were once rivals. Calhoun recalls coaching third base when Tignor played on an opposing team. Some playful ribbing from the coaching box started connecting them and now they’re regulars at the Roy Hobbs World Series as teammates.
Anything he said to Tignor from the coaching box, Calhoun assured, could be published here.
“It wasn’t anything you couldn’t put in the program,” Calhoun said, “It was stuff like, who’s this handsome guy?”
Calhoun soon learned things about Tignor that made him White Lightnin’ material, regardless of looks. First, he can play. Second, he’s a good dude.
Tignor noticed Calhoun’s ability as well his good-natured comments.
“You couldn’t get the guy out,” Tignor said.
Calhoun struck Tignor as a gifted hitter.
“He doesn’t strike out,” Tignor said.
They then struck up a friendship.
Friends by any name
Roy Hobbs Baseball is about more than hitting or striking out. It’s time in the dugout or around the batting cage or going out for post-game beverages or talking over cigars.
“This guy is a trip,” Tignor said of his affable teammate, who certainly knows about cigars.
Calhoun is an area sales manager for Davidoff of Geneva, a premium cigar maker.
The list of teams they’ve played together on extends far beyond the White Lightnin’. It’s nearly as long as the list of 10 states across the South that Calhoun covers in his job.
In Tennessee leagues Calhoun and Tignor have played on the Nashville Cardinals, Music City Stars, OverMountain All-Stars and Music City Rippers.
Their tournament teams include the Tennessee Dirtbags, Alabama Tribe and Atlanta Spikes as well as the White Lightnin’.
That’s a lot of baseball and a lot of time in dugouts and trips to restaurants and bars and bonding over cigars.
They come from different parts of the world, one in the South and one in the North. Tignor was born and raised in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. It is also spelled Mt. Juliet. Whether it is Mount or Mt., this leafy suburb of Nashville has a population of 39,289, according to the 2020 census.
Wikipedia notes that it is the hometown of Charlie Daniels and Loretta Lynn.
It sounds very southern, indeed.
Tignor’s upbringing in the South is apparent in his accent.
Calhoun grew up in Chicago, which was captured in the 1914 Carl Sandburg poem “Chicago.”
“Hog butcher for the World
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat
Player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler
Stormy, husky, brawling.
City of Big Shoulders.”
Yet, the transplant from the husky, brawling big shoulders of Chicago and the son of the South connected over baseball. Calhoun moved to Nashville in 2005.
Tignor is a licensed insurance agent and owner of Main Street Title and Insurance in his hometown, right there on Main Street in Mount Juliet. Or Mt. Juliet.
They are from different parts of the country and don’t have the same personalities or accents.
Tignor is bit more reserved and Calhoun, perhaps befitting somebody who sells cigars for a living, is more out-going.
“He’s kind of my alter-ego,” Tignor said. “I’m kind of the quiet guy. I may be thinking all this stuff, but God knows I’m not going to say these things.”
Calhoun’s fun-loving nature allows him to say amusing things that Tignor may not say. But their thoughts are often similar.
“We are always on the same page,” Calhoun said.
They complement each other.
“We’re both better people for it,” Calhoun said.
They want to win and want good players on the team but the primary goal in building the team is not talent.
“Good people first,” Tignor said.
Calhoun echoed his friend when he said, “It’s about having good guys. We could come down with some better players. It’s not all about winning.”
It’s about spending a week at the Roy Hobbs World Series with like-minded and likable teammates.
Adam Flood joined the team as a free agent two years ago. His first game was at City of Palms Park and that’s where he met Calhoun.
“It took just a couple of days for us to click,” Flood said.
He soon learned about his new teammates as well.
“The core group of guys, they’re not just tremendous ballplayers but also genuine fellows,” Flood said.
That includes, of course, Tignor.
“He’s the quiet one but damn he can play baseball,” the 6-foot-6 Flood said.
Calhoun, he learned, has an “infectious personality.” Flood learned that Calhoun’s personality made him well-suited to his career as a “cigar salesman.”
Flood purchased a box of cigars from his new friend when Calhoun made a business trip to Atlanta, where Flood lives and works. Calhoun threw in 10 extra cigars for free.
And these are not 5 cent cigars. That’s for sure. Flood said the cigars sell for between $15 and $20 each.
“I was blown away,” Flood said.
Calhoun made him, he said, feel like “a friend, not customer.”
If Reggie Jackson was the straw that stirred the Yankees drink in the 1970s, Calhoun and Tignor may be the clue that keep the White Lightnin’ together.
“If it wasn’t for Garrett and Ed, I don’t know who would keep it together,” said teammate Scotter James.
White Lightnin’ veteran Gabe Orendorff likes the camaraderie Calhoun and Tignor encourage everywhere.
“I enjoy being in the same dugout with those guys,” Orendorff said.
Which brings us to this. …
Bonds of baseball
When legendary broadcaster Vin Scully died over the summer, Tignor was in his backyard when the news broke.
“Who can I commiserate with?” Tignor wondered.
Who did he know who knew about Scully? Who understood what he meant to baseball? Who shares Tignor’s baseball knowledge?
“Garrett was the first one I thought of,” Tignor said. “There’s another baseball guy out there who gets you.”
Calhoun had the same reaction upon hearing the news about Scully.“ He was the first one I thought of,” Calhoun said.
By the way, Tignor has a batting cage with an Iron Mike in his backyard. During the pandemic, the right-handed hitting Tignor worked on hitting left-handed in the backyard. Now he is a switch-hitter.
Even at 46, Tignor is looking to get better.
“I’m not trying to get a scholarship to an old folks’ home,” Tignor said.
During the 2021 Roy Hobbs World Series, Calhoun and Tignor sat in the bleachers at PDC4 after a victory and talked about cigars. Their comments then about cigars can sum up their friendship and the camaraderie of the White Lighntin’.
“It brings people together,” Calhoun said of cigar smoking. “They always say in our cigar business you never meet a stranger with a cigar. Everybody is smoking a cigar. You’re never with a stranger.”
Tignor said then, “It makes you slow down and enjoy where you are. We’re always thinking about where we need to be. Cigars just make you enjoy where you’re at.”
For Calhoun. Tignor, Flood and the rest of the team, that means at the ball field, in the dugout or the batting cages.
With their teammates, no matter their hometown or accent.