Arnold gives Unaka programs senior stability

By Wes Holtsclaw

   A role player, an athletic mind and a leader. Those are three things that characterize Unaka basketball and baseball senior Chris Arnold.
   Arnold entered his senior year filling a large void of the basketball and baseball teams as the only senior on both squads.
   He adapted to the situation he was given and has made the best of his final year in the maroon uniforms.
   "It's been a dream come true to play ball at Unaka," Arnold said. "I looked forward to it coming out of elementary school, and it has been something else being a part of it. I've had good players to work with and great coaches."
   The senior was a vital part in Unaka's conference championship on the hardwood this past season and has been a solid hitter on the conference-leading Ranger baseball squad.
   "Chris is the kind of kid that gets the most out of what the Lord gave him," said Unaka baseball coach Mike Ensor. "He's a cut-up and he's funny, but he works his butt off. He has an intense knowledge of sports in general and it makes him easy to coach."
   He has been a great example to the kids under him this season, beginning with basketball.
   "At first they thought, well it was just me," Arnold said. "When it came down to getting ready for our big conference games, they all responded well and knew their role."
   "At the beginning of the year, Coach (Donald) Ensor told me that I had to let those guys catch up and whatever I did would be the right thing," he said. "They were young, hard working boys and they loved the game."
   Arnold has been batting in the nine spot for the baseball squad this season and has shown great things.
   "We came out last year and he had an attitude problem at times," Ensor said. "This year, he's been totally opposite and one of the best seniors I've ever coached. He does what's best for the team."
   "He takes some ribbing from hitting in the nine spot," he said. "But we've always tried to put a solid hitter there. Someone who can hit, run and bunt it. Chris makes things happen and it means a lot to me and the team."
   Arnold is hitting in the .300s, with a six to seven hundred percent on-base percentage this season.
   "He's been knocking in a lot of runs and hitting it good," added Ensor. "He's been great about it and a lot of the guys would like to have his average."
   Chris has had a lot of memorable moments with the Rangers, with his favorite rivals being Cloudland and University High.
   "The games were a little more personal with (Ben) Cole and (Aaron) Dugger and those guys," Arnold said. "My favorite games were probably our home basketball games against Cloudland and the Regional championship win over Hancock County at LMU."
   Arnold has gotten a lot of support from his mother and his father, who travels with his job.
   "My dad hasn't been able to be there as much," he said. "But my mom would follow us to Memphis for a scrimmage. It's always been ball, ball, ball since I was little."
   Arnold plans to pursue a career in welding once he graduates from Unaka High School.
   "More than likely, ball's over for me," he said. "At Unaka, they teach you about life, discipline and keep you straight. I've loved being a part of a great organization up here. It's been a trip."
   One thing's for sure, nobody will forget the contributions Chris Arnold has made to Ranger athletics.