By Ron Ingram/For AHSAA
Longtime Hokes Bluff High head baseball coach Mike Estes was one of 12 persons recently selected to the 23nd class of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame.
Following graduation from Jacksonville State in 1973, the 1968 Hokes Bluff graduate returned to his alma mater in 1975 and began a 34-year coaching career that produced nine state championships. His teams won three in a row from 1975-77 and six in a row from 2003-2008.
Estes compiled a 606-299 record that also included two Class 3A runner-up teams (in 2000 and 2002) and three others that reached the state semifinals.
Estes was a three-year starter for Hokes Bluff’s baseball team, playing for Charles Lumsden.
“I was coming back to watch some baseball, be-cause my brother Darryl played,” Estes said in a 2008 interview shortly after he retired. “I got to sitting by Mr. Campbell and talking to him. He said that when I finished at JSU, that there could be a math teaching opening, and there was. While in college, I didn’t even plan to coach – I was just going to be a math teacher.”
Estes was named the 2005 National Federation of High School Coach of the Year and received the AHSAA Award of Merit in 2005. He was inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Estes also received the prestigious ABBCA Sammy Dunn Memorial Award in 2008.
He and longtime assistant coach David Wright, who was hired with Estes in 1975, retired together along with longtime pitching coach and MLB pitcher Steve Shields following the 2008 season.
Shields pointed to Estes’ love of the game as a key to success.
“If you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t be able to tell if he had been out there for 34 years or if it was his first or second season,” Shields said. “Because of the excitement he brings to the field, a whole lot of it rubs off on the players. They see him having fun, so they have fun.”
Until the very end, Estes threw every pitch of every batting practice, something else that Shields noted helped the team win.
“We would put the radar gun (on opposing pitchers),” Shields said. “Then Coach Estes, being a math teacher, would figure out how far from the plate to stand, to mimic that speed as the ball crossed home. And he is continually teaching some point of the game to the players.”
Of practicing the same things over and over, Estes said, “We had some boring practices, but we worked on things we felt like we needed to know to be able to win games.”
The 2013 class, which will be inducted at a March 18 banquet in Montgomery, also includes former basketball coach and former AHSAA Associate Executive Director Joe Evans; volleyball coach Julie Sinclair; coach/administrator Denise Rhodes Ainsworth; basketball coaches Raymond White, Jim Hunter Jr., and Larry Davidson; wrestling coach Stephen Gaydosh; football coaches Ben Harris and Arthur “Buddy” Davis; administrator Jim Tuley; and basketball official Greg England. The 18-member Hall of Fame Committee made the selections from the 46 nominations on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Stan Veitch contributed to this story.