The Tour­na­ment Of Two Towns


Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS WEEK - By Mark Humphrey

FARM­ING­TON — When Green­land hosted the sec­ond Jarren Sorters Memo­rial Baseball Tour­na­ment in March, it wasn’t the first time the com­mu­ni­ties of Prairie Grove and Green­land con­nected over a sport­ing en­deavor.

Tour­na­ment name­sake, Jarren Sorters, late son of Prairie Grove ath­letic di­rec­tor Joey Sorters and his wife Donna, es­tab­lished a prece­dent while bat­tling sar­coma, a form of child­hood cancer, in the fall of 2015.

Not one to re­main idle fol­low­ing the di­ag­no­sis, Jarren wanted his life to be pro­duc­tive and vol­un­teered to break down game film for Green­land head foot­ball coach, Lee Larkan, a close fam­ily friend.

“Joey showed him what to do,” Larkan said. “He was 14-15 years old. It was im­mac­u­late. We used ev­ery­thing, ev­ery play that they (op­po­nents) ran Jarren broke it down. Here he was liv­ing in Prairie Grove breaking down film for Green­land. He had time. He wanted to do it. He was smart, he knew what to do.”

There was no conflict of in­ter­est. Joey Sorters didn’t be­come Prairie Grove ath­letic di­rec­tor un­til May of 2017. Prairie Grove (4A-1) and Green­land (3A-1) com­pete in sep­a­rate clas­si­fi­ca­tions and haven’t played each other at the var­sity foot­ball level in a long time.

Jarren’s dili­gence be­came ap­par­ent with the 2015 Pi­rates go­ing 10-2 and ad­vanc­ing to the sec­ond-round of the state foot­ball play­offs. Green­land outscored op­po­nents, 401-170.

Larkan au­tho­rized Green­land baseball coach Will McGin­nis and the Pi­rate baseball team to host the tour­na­ment this year while the Prairie Grove High School team, which hosted the in­au­gu­ral event last year, trav­eled to Ari­zona to com­pete in the Coach Bob Tour­na­ment.

The tour­na­ment serves as a fundraiser for the Play4Jar­ren Foun­da­tion es­tab­lished by Joey and Donna Sorters in mem­ory of Jarren, who passed Aug. 11, 2016, to honor his never-quit at­ti­tude and pro­mote ef­forts to de­feat the dis­ease.

The towns are 10 miles apart, al­most in a straight line from east to west, but even more im­por­tant is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Sorters and Larkan fam­i­lies which be­gan when Larkan, then ath­letic di­rec­tor at Des Arc, hired Joey Sorters as head coach for boys bas­ket­ball, girls track and field, and ju­nior girls bas­ket­ball from 1996-1999. Joey also kept the

baseball score­book.

Joey Sorters wants to make the tour­na­ment an an­nual event so he asked Larkan if Green­land was will­ing to host for 2018. Larkan went to work and found in­ter­est from teams will­ing to travel a dis­tance to com­pete over spring break.

“This year they were go­ing to Ari­zona so we said we would take it for now,” Larkan said. “We had peo­ple from Smack­over and peo­ple from Ok­la­homa come.”

The fastest route from Smack­over in south­ern Arkansas near the Lou­siana bor­der equals a 300-mile, 4.5-hour drive. Hol­land Hall, a Tulsa, Okla., school is 120 miles and two hours west. Other teams par­tic­i­pat­ing in­cluded Charleston, Ozark and Val­ley Springs.

Green­land beat Hol­land Hall, 3-1; won a slugfest against Ozark, 17-12; and downed Smack­over, 10-1, to win the tour­na­ment rais­ing $3,174 to fight child­hood cancer.

“We want to try and grow it,” Joey Sorters said. “My vi­sion is to play two fields, maybe even three fields if we can get Farm­ing­ton in­volved in the fu­ture. That way we can get more teams and play on two or three fields at once.”

Farm­ing­ton is Prairie Grove’s chief ri­val, six miles away. The lo­gis­tics are fa­vor­able and Joey Sorters has an ace, Farm­ing­ton head ju­nior high foot­ball coach Tracy Sut­ton, whose ac­quain­tance goes back to Joey’s coach­ing days at Des Arc when Sut­ton served from 19972000 as head coach for baseball and boys track and field plus as­sis­tant var­sity foot­ball coach and head ju­nior high foot­ball coach. Sut­ton’s youngest son, Tate, plays for the Farm­ing­ton var­sity.

“I’m go­ing to talk to our (Farm­ing­ton) head baseball coach (Jay Harper) about get­ting it there, too,” Sut­ton said.

Sut­ton re­mem­bers Jarren’s un­con­quer­able spirit.

“Ev­ery time I saw him and I talked to Joey it seemed like it was al­ways an up­hill bat­tle,” Sut­ton said. “Seemed like he never got good news. Never one time did I hear him com­plain. Out in pub­lic he was as strong a young man as you could see. He was a great role model. No mat­ter what your cir­cum­stances are, it’s not go­ing to change who you are — be­cause he never changed.”

The Larkan fam­ily was touched by Jarren’s com­pas­sion in the midst of his own, per­sonal storm that in­cluded un­der­go­ing a leg am­pu­ta­tion in Oc­to­ber of 2015. Larkan’s wife, Mary, bat­tled breast cancer dur­ing the same time frame and un­der­went a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy.

“Jarren came over, he was on crutches…” Larkan said. “He just came over and helped take care of her.”

Since ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Jarren’s heart-felt, hands-on approach, Mary Larkan has been good the last two years.

The un­spo­ken mu­tual aid agree­ment be­tween fam­i­lies con­tin­ues.


The Prairie Grove High School baseball pro­gram hosted the an­nual Jarren Sorters Memo­rial Baseball Tour­na­ment March 21-23, 2017, at Prairie Grove’s Ri­eff Park. Jarren passed in Au­gust of 2016.


Donna (left) and Joey Sorters, of Prairie Grove, re­ceive a check from Green­land High School baseball coach Will McGin­nis in the amount of $3,174 raised to fight child­hood cancer. Pro­ceeds were from the sec­ond an­nual Jarren Sorters Memo­rial Baseball Tour­na­ment, which Green­land hosted dur­ing spring break while Prairie Grove’s baseball team was com­pet­ing in the Coach Bob Tour­na­ment in Ari­zona. Next sea­son the Jarren Sorters Memo­rial tour­na­ment re­turns to Prairie Grove. Jarren, son of Joey and Donna Sorters, passed at age 15 in Au­gust of 2016 af­ter bat­tling sar­coma.


Coach­ing friends (from left): Prairie Grove ath­letic di­rec­tor Joey Sorters, Green­land ath­letic di­rec­tor and head foot­ball coach Lee Larkan and Farm­ing­ton as­sis­tant foot­ball coach and head ju­nior high foot­ball coach Tracy Sut­ton, de­vel­oped the foun­da­tion of their friend­ship while coach­ing at Des Arc 20 years ago.

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