Charleston, SC — Fall 2001
I laid my eyes on the man who would end up being my head baseball coach for the next 4 years following my high school graduation in May 2002. There was this calm competitiveness about him (later taught as relaxed aggression) that permeated the room of recruits and their parents. Recalling this encounter from the hotel restaurant within 2 long Phil Hartig home runs away from Riley Park brings back a lot of vivid memories from my first and only official visit during my college recruitment and the man simply known to many as Coach or 26.
When I left Charleston that fall weekend in 2001 my parents informed me that it was my decision ultimately. Before making it to Orangeburg I knew I wanted to attend The Military College of South Carolina. This average left handed OF / somewhat of a P from Batesburg – Leesville High School was going to try and tackle the Southern Conference and the Holy City all in one.
Why, you might ask?
I walked away from my official visit knowing I wanted to don The Citadel blue and navy of the Bulldogs and join the family atmosphere that I experienced on my visit.
During my 4 years Coach and I didn’t always see eye to eye and being the early 20s hot head that I was I thought it was all him. It couldn’t possibly be me.
But, boy was I wrong!
Regretfully, I didn’t figure that out until months after the last out of my career was made against our cross town rivals in the SOCON Tournament. It wasn’t him. It was all me and some of those choices I made during those 4 years is something I will leave with for the rest of my life.
Even though some have said that words can’t express their feelings or gratitude to Coach I have to buck (Coach loves to hunt so that reference is for him) that trend and use words to get my English major point across. No matter the circumstance Coach was always there even though he might not ever say a word. And for that, plus many more, I say THANK YOU!
THANK YOU for taking a chance on this small town boy who had $5 dreams but a $1 work ethic.
THANK YOU for teaching me and my freshman teammates how to practice and work hard in the classroom, military, and on the baseball field.
THANK YOU for all of the meetings (sometimes meetings about meetings) and speeches. I found myself reciting those same words to my baseball teams I coached and even now, my kids.
THANK YOU for teaching me the importance of Eagle Eye and Early Bird. And, that sometimes, in order to know what goes on at practice one must read the posted practice schedule.
THANK YOU for wearing the white pullover (no matter the temperature) where most of the letters that read The Citadel were literally falling off. We knew it meant we better work without you even uttering a word.
THANK YOU for teaching us The Citadel Way…Long, Hard, and Fast…And The Citadel Baseball is not just for a season but a Lifetime.
THANK YOU for being there when my parents were going through a rough time and a real treat of driving me in from practice in your truck so I could personally talk to them on the phone when they needed it the most. You didn’t say much on that short trip around Hampton Park but I knew you were there for me no matter what.
THANK YOU for not allowing us to talk on bus rides after losses, even if it was as far away as Johnson City or Statesboro. Also, for the long silence in the locker rooms after home losses where the minutes felt like hours or even days.
THANK YOU for pushing us with 6-minute miles and optional fun runs even though we knew they weren’t optional. Also, for the boot camp style team challenges that fully embraced what our school was all about.
THANK YOU for teaching us the art of pulling our pant legs down without ever touching them with our hands while giving the hitter and base runner signs from the 3rd base coaching box.
THANK YOU teaching us that 72% of the time a lead off walk scored.
THANK YOU for teaching us that giving up or not playing with heart on the field is the same as giving up or not competing when you are married, have kids, and it is 2 a.m. and the baby will not stop crying. Are you going to quit or not play with heart then?
THANK YOU for teaching us that Defense does indeed Win Championships. Also, that wins and losses will take care of themselves if we work hard, execute and play fundamental baseball.
THANK YOU for instilling Belief, Faith, and Trust in us that we will carry with us for life. It is inscribed in my class ring and will be with me forever.
THANK YOU for letting your coaches coach and be who the men they are on and off the field. From Lemo to Beck to Gibby to Griff to Carlson…Thank you.
THANK YOU for making us run to and from practice. Those jogs were some of the best bonding time we could ever ask for.
THANK YOU for allowing us to play some of the best teams in the country and have road games across the country as well. We played South Carolina, Clemson, Nebraska, NC State, Florida State, Miami, Virginia, and Oregon State to mention a few. This small town boy went to Tallahassee, South Beach, Hawai’i, and so many places over the southeast that I know where the best hotels are in the most random cities.
THANK YOU for the teaching us the most risk / reward game of plus / minus on the planet. And the most interesting side straddle hop as well.
THANK YOU for teaching us how to be a great father and husband figure while competing at one of the highest levels in college baseball.
THANK YOU for being so loyal to former players, knowing we could always come back…always.
THANK YOU for demanding so much from us but being there for us whether we were 0 for 4 or 4 for 4.
THANK YOU for leading us and instilling your vision of your program / your alma mater through relentless work and sound fundamentals.
THANK YOU for being the ultimate competitor and willingness to have our backs no matter the situation.
THANK YOU for preaching to us the importance of The Citadel degree. Baseball was a nice avenue to enjoy during college and take your mind off things for about 3 hours but that ring and diploma were the most important.
THANK YOU, Coach, for being (plain and simple) you.
You have meant the world to so many! As my years from the banks of the Ashley River increase my love, appreciation, and admiration for you does nothing but expand. Enjoy your retirement, 26 and know that you definitely made a mark on this man and his path…not just for a season, but a lifetime.