The accolades continue to roll in for legendary high school baseball coach Bobby Howard.
Howard was one of 11 men elected to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on July 18. He and the other 10 coaches will be formally inducted into the Hall in January 2018.
Howard is part of a class that includes St. John’s head coach Ed Blankmeyer, Belhaven’s Hill Denson, Prairie High School (Wash.) head coach Don Freeman, Lamar University’s Jim Gilligan, State College of Florida’s Tim Hill Sr., Arizona head coach Andy Lopez, Desert Vista High School (Ariz.) Stan Luketich, New York Yankees director of international player development Pat McMahon, Gaither High School (Fla.) Frank Permuy and Ashland University’s John Schaly.
“I feel honored and blessed, first of all,” Howard said. “There are a lot of layers to one of those elections like that. You have to have great players, great assistant coaches, great parents and great administrators who support you. You’ve got to have great recommendations and strong baseball people to recommend you.”
Howard was a mainstay in the Chattahoochee Valley area for several decades, having coached at Jordan, Kendrick and Columbus. He spent 31 years as the head coach of the Blue Devils, capturing 12 state championships and 819 career victories along the way.
Howard resigned from Columbus in March 2015 and became Central’s head coach prior to the 2016 season. He led the Red Devils to the playoffs in his two seasons on the job before he abruptly resigned in May.
Howard is now the head coach at Cartersville High School, a squad that routinely squared off against Howard and the Blue Devils in the state playoffs. He boasts a career coaching record of 985-296, according to the ABCA’s website.
Howard has coached several standout baseball players in his career, most notably Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. When Thomas, who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, was inducted into Cooperstown in 2014, he pointed out Howard for the influence he had on his growth.
“You made me grow up in a hurry,” Thomas said. “Your no-nonsense approach to the game was needed at an early age. Winning was the only option. You preached that, and you made me work for it. You set my foundation for life. I love you, and I thank you.”
Howard has received a great deal of recognition throughout his coaching career, including being selected as The Ledger-Enquirer’s Coach of the Year 12 different times. The 11-time State Coach of the Year was recognized as the ABCA/Diamond National High School Coach of the Year in 2000, as well as an ABCA/Diamond Regional Coach of the Year in 2000, 2005 and 2012. He was also named USA Today's 2004 National High School Coach of the Year and ESPN's National High School Coach of the Year in 2012.
Howard is a member of the Georgia Dugout Club Sports Hall of Fame, the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the Sunbelt Classic Hall of Fame. He has also been inducted into the Columbus State University and Jordan High School Halls of Fame as a player.
For Howard, his latest Hall of Fame selection is a special one.
“It’s been said that it’s the Cooperstown of the coaching fraternity,” Howard said.
Howard thanked Joe Roberts for his push to have Howard inducted into the Hall of Fame. Howard said Jeff Boatner, one of Howard’s longtime assistants, was also pivotal in Roberts’ efforts, as he kept Roberts informed and up to date on Howard’s career numbers and achievements.
Roberts, fellow inductee McMahon, Danny Hall, Ron Polk, Tim Corbin, Dave McDonald, Keith Madison and Guy Anderson all wrote letters to the ABCA on behalf of Howard.
In the end, Howard said the key to his sustained success was his family, which includes wife Vicki, daughter Lindsey Rae, son Will, son-in-law Kevin and granddaughter Quinley Reagan.
“More than anything else, you’ve got to have a great, supportive family,” Howard said. “When it’s all said and done, I want the people at my house and the people who know me the best to love and respect me. Everything else is irrelevant or immaterial.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports