Like me, Bill graduated from SMSU. In 1961 and in 1997 there were two directions represented by the first “S” on the front end of the college’s name — Southwest. I always took pride in the first “S.” Even though the ring of “MSU” has grown on me since moving back to town, I still want to find an old SMSU baseball jersey to wear to games.
Forecast to be the coldest day of the week — bright skies and wind chill in the 20s — today is the home opener for the Missouri State baseball team against Oklahoma State at Hammons Field. I remember well the feeling of a ball hitting close to my hands on an aluminum bat. I am glad I will not be experiencing that today.
I couldn’t believe Bill agreed to a game of catch. I honestly expected him to laugh off my request, or just simply ignore it.
“I really like what you’re doing, playing catch, being with people. This is a good thing. I played catch with my grandson just last week.”
We met at Hammons Field, me and all of my layers, and Bill gave me a tour of the clubhouse on the way to the Bears’ bullpen. I said a quick hi to Aaron (Day #42) and watched Derek (Day #43) hard at work already watering the infield. (Watering the infield on days like today is no fun whatsoever.)
In 1964, Bill was the first baseball coach for the Bears.
“I remember our first games, a doubleheader in Arkansas. Didn’t win ‘em, but I remember them.”
Bill coached the baseball team for 19 years.
“We practiced up the road at Silver Springs Park and played our home games at Nichols Park, before Meador Field was built.”
I, too, have played baseball at all three of those parks.
He then served as the athletic director from 1982 until his retirement in 2009. But he’s not really retired. Bill has more meetings and appointments filling his day than I do filling my week. I can only hope to have half of his energy when I retire.
As we flipped the ball and practiced a wide variety of grips, Bill told me all about his life as a coach. I loved his stories and the amazing heart behind the stories. When you deeply care for your players, teams can do great things.
After catch, I packed the gloves and Bill led me back through the clubhouse.
He shook my hand and gave me a pat on the back, “Really do love this playing catch. Please, let me know how I can help you meet your goal.”
That’s the heart of a Coach.
Thanks to the fantastic work of Patrick and Phelps Grove Outfitters, there is now a “Wanna play catch / #Catch365” t-shirt! All proceeds will benefit the Miracle League of Springfield.