January 04, 2012 Edition

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Bobby C. Watson and his wife, Maryann (seated, right) are photographed with some of the friends and family members present at the event held in his honor. Seated with the Watsons are (from left): Vicky Jones Romine of Minturn, Teressa Guntharp Hart of Hoxie and Patty Smith Causler of Bono.

Former players, friends
honor Coach Watson

Bill Wilcoxson delights in having his photo taken with his former Little League coach, Bobby C. Watson of Hoxie. Many others gathered Friday evening to express their affection and appreciation to Watson for his years of coaching and mentoring of area youth.
Submitted Photo ~ Jeff Taylor

By Jeff Taylor
Guest Writer and Photographer

Former Hoxie High School student athlete Linda Graddy Black recently came up with the idea to pay tribute to her favorite coach, Bobby C. Watson. She put together a reunion, or an appreciation event, held Friday evening in his honor at Don's Steak House in Walnut Ridge.

It didn't take long for us to see that the outpouring of gratitude for what Coach Watson has done for our community was going to be special. Former Little League boys, softball players, track and fielders, golfers, football and basketball players all stood in line for a chance to spend a few minutes with one of their favorite coaches and to express to him what he meant and just how much he helped shape their lives.

Also present were several parents of those former players who knew and recognized how valuable his lessons were to their children and who just wanted to shake his hand and say, "Thank You."

I saw Coach Watson's former athletes and students bringing their own kids by for the opportunity to meet the man who taught them many of the traits and values of who they now are.

Bobby C. Watson has been in the business of coaching sports since 1950. He started at Western Grove, but Crawfordsville and Hoxie received the most years of his talent and gift of teaching kids to do their best on and off the court or field.

His junior high and high school coaching contests totaled 2,897, and his winning percentage ended at an impressive .569. However, it is impossible to measure his greatest accomplishments. Those were giving that glance when he knew you could do better or that reassuring smile or nod when he knew you gave your best.

Coach Watson brought football back to Hoxie High School in 1969. He provided the opportunity of an AAU Track Club in Hoxie, where kids from all over the county competed with each other and became lifelong friends.

I first met him when I was a young Johnny Bench-wannabe catcher in 1972, when he took over the Walnut Ridge Jaycees summer baseball program. The current Little League ball field is named in his honor.

While he taught us all the fundamentals - sportsmanship, teamwork and skills of our dreams - his wife, Maryann, was braving the mosquitoes and heat, to run the concession stand. His daughter, Judy, coached girls softball, while daughter, Terri, took the gate money. He and his son, Bob Mike, went on to referee football games together until he was 74. His oldest daughter, Robin, was coached by him as well, with several of his kids continuing the family tradition of mentoring youth in sports.

Coach Watson didn't care if you were a Bobcat, Mustang or Zebra, or a good or bad player. He had a way of bringing us all together. We didn't want to let him down, and he brought out the best in all of us.

As we mingled and shared stories of those glory days with our hero and friends, it was apparent that what we brought with us was admiration. Watching him remember 99 percent of his well-wishers after all these years was amazing.

The graciousness, humility and appreciation he expressed to us for remembering him and his family, is yet another one of Coach's life lessons to take to heart, learn and spread into this big old world.

I overheard his grandson, Trey, say before leaving that evening, "I can see a lot of people really love you, Grandpa."

Trey is absolutely right, we do love Coach and there was much love in that room for Coach Bobby C. Watson.

Thanks again to Linda Graddy Black for the evening with Coach. I know many letters were sent to him from those who couldn't attend. Additional comments were left from those there.

I still know to hold the runner at second, and not to throw my bat in anger when I strike out.

Thank you for the fond memories, my friend.

Below are a sampling of comments made about Coach Watson.

  • Frank Lee, WBC Baseball: "Coach Watson had a profound influence on me. Not just in baseball, but as a human with high morals and ethics. He never divided this community; he was the glue that held it together for several decades. What a wonderful mentor."

  • Jay Johnson, Rogers: "Now that I have my own boys, it becomes more clear to me how fortunate I was to have Coach Watson teach me the sport of baseball. What he brought to the community was priceless. I wish my boys could have had the same teacher! Coach is a great man, and I'm so glad we got this chance to let him know how much we appreciate him!"

  • Betty Dickerson Jarrett: "There are a lot of people I like but none that I have more respect for then Coach Watson. Coach Watson gave so much of himself to the kids in the community - not just at Hoxie School. He is a special person and he impacted my life - he was much more than a coach."

  • Mary Graddy Reid: "Coach Watson taught us fundamentals, sportsmanship, teamwork and respect for others. He was a great teacher. Some of my fondest memories are the golf matches between him and my sister, Linda, and Judy Watson and me. We beat them by one stroke, and he couldn't wait for a rematch. I always had the utmost respect for him both on and off the court."

  • Terry Kelley: "Some of my fondest memories of childhood are the countless hours on the Little League field with you. Thanks for all the dedication and love you gave us! You're one of a kind."

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