By R. Alan Richardson
I’ve had a lot of coaches over the years and many changed my life from an athletic perspective, but there’s only one coach that changed my life completely. That would be my Dad, Dewey Richardson, of Rutledge.
This past Saturday he received the Mr. Rutledge Award for the 2016 Rutledge Country Fair. After I read many of the letters nominating him for the award about how he touched their lives as a coach, bus driver, and friend over the past 82 years it got me thinking about some of the wonderful memories I have of our times together.
The first memory I have is of my Dad tossing batting practice to his three boys in the front yard of a small home in Henry County. He would come home after working a physically exhausting job as a pipe-fitter and we would beg him to play some baseball. Dad always obliged. He taught me how to throw, catch, hit, slide, run the bases, and the rules of the game. Dad loved and still loves the game. If the Braves are on, get out of his way. He’s shutting down and can be found in his recliner.
The Richardson family moved to Rutledge in 1964 when I was seven. My father was instrumental in changing the entire landscape of recreation ball in this small town. A small group of men went about the task of renovating the dilapidated baseball field and old Rutledge Elementary gym to make them playable.
Lights were put up, fences were built, the infield was made playable (I picked up enough rocks there to fill up a dump truck), backboards and rims were replaced, the gym floor was refinished, windows were replaced, a concession stand was built, and leagues were started up for all ages and genders. We would many days leave the hayfield and help him get the field ready for play that evening by dragging the infield, cutting grass, lining the base paths, and getting the concessions ready. My Dad spent countless volunteer hours there that resulted in giving young and old alike memories that have lasted a lifetime. He was honored by the Morgan County Recreation Department as volunteer of the year later on.
Getting back to my first coach. Grampa, as we now call him, coached me in little league, pony league, and also in summer American Legion baseball. I once played for a coach my freshman year in high school that was the most sarcastic and negative coach/person I’ve ever known. As the starting second baseman he got me to a point that I didn’t even want to play anymore. Dad was just the opposite. He was positive, encouraging, and supportive of all those little boys who later came of age to play against some of the best competition in the state. No doubt he was the best coach I ever played for. I truly never heard him say one single derogatory thing to me or any other kid he ever coached. That’s who he was and still is today. He’s always been behind the scenes helping people in need. It’s no longer about sports, but he cuts ladies’ grass, bush hogs for friends, and runs a weed eater for those less fortunate. He doesn’t want them to pay him, but they bring him a lot of food.
In Pony League, he would load up the entire team and equipment in our Dodge station wagon (with push-button transmission) and carry us to the games. He still laughs about Bobby Peters sitting in the back and spitting tobacco all over the back of his car. Great times and great memories came out of those stories and it was all because of my Dad.
I am the most blessed man in the world to have had Mr. Dewey as my coach and Father. The wisdom he passed down to his sons and hundreds of other kids goes well beyond the game of baseball. He taught us the fundamentals, morals, and how to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Both the game of baseball and the game of life.
At almost 60 years old now, I realize that he’s the epitome of what a Mr. Rutledge should stand for. He’s coached, helped, nurtured, and mentored countless thousands of people in the 52 years he’s lived here. Some describe him as a true servant of the people of Rutledge who they know they can count on. He’s also my best friend. Thanks for being there Dad. I haven’t told you enough that I love you.