McCollough: Butch made me a better person even though I wasn’t one of his boys

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Unlike most of you, I didn’t have the opportunity to be around Pike Liberal Arts head coach Butch Austin for decades.

I only got to know him over the last few seasons, but I can tell you right now without batting an eye, I am better for having known him.

I never played for Butch; I never suited up in orange and navy or red, white and blue. He never taught me how to read a ball in the dirt, hit a cutoff man in stride or the proper way to get a lead off of first.

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But he did teach me a lot of things that I will use for the rest of my life.

The first time I met Coach Austin he was sitting at picnic table behind the backstop at the field that bears his name.

He was watching practice from the shade, while his assistants took care of the physical work. Every now and then Austin would bark out instructions to the coaches, or sometimes to players.

He didn’t demand respect. The players automatically gave it to him, because he earned it.

He worked his tail off for over three decades plying his craft in the game he loved.

He touched the lives of thousands of ball players. While he may never be the Time Magazine Person of the Year, he would be shoe in for the Troy Messenger Person of the Year if such an award existed.

He treated every player, coach, umpire, spectator, and even a wet-behind-the-ears sports writer, with the utmost respect and courtesy.

To steal a phrase from former Troy mayor Jimmy Lunsford, Butch Austin is a “prince of a fella.”

His respect for the game and for the people around him rubbed off on me. I have been able to watch how he handles different situations, some good and some bad, from up close.

While there are times he gets upset, he almost never loses his temper. For while things may not being going his team’s way at the moment, Butch knows their time will come.

He preaches to his players to work hard, be humble and go to church, because “if you do that, everything will work out,” he says.

I take that to heart in my every day life. While I trade baseball spikes for loafers, jerseys for polo shirts and a bat for an ink pen, Austin’s baseball philosophy is in my head everyday.

I know that if I work hard, be humble and go to church, good things will probably come my way.

So from the bottom of my heart, I would like to send a special thank you to Butch. If I grow up to be half the man that you are, I will be a pretty good person.

Ryan McCollough is a sports writer for The Messenger. He covers recreation, high school and Troy University athletics and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.