Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

Baseball coach Billy Reed lived a life of courage, integrity

TAMPA

As a teenager in the late 1940s, when Jim Crow remained the South’s two most notorious syllables, Billy Reed had to walk past Hillsborough High’s baseball field to get to all-black Middleton.

"Those (Hillsborough) students would hurl racial slurs, throw rocks and spit at him," recalled Dori Reed Blanc, one of Mr. Reed’s two daughters. "My father could have easily been bitter and harbored ill will. Instead, he persevered and focused on his goals."

Today, that same field is named in his honor.

"So the lesson here is if something bad happens to you … learn from it," Blanc said told a congregation of roughly 350 on Saturday at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. "Find strength from it, and one day in God’s time, there will be a positive outcome."

Blanc’s story highlighted a 90-minute "Home Run Celebration" for Mr. Reed, who died in a Tampa rehabilitation facility Dec. 30 at 86. A multisport athlete at Middleton and Florida A&M, Mr. Reed returned to his hometown and evolved into one of the most revered high school baseball coaches in bay area history.

In addition to coaching at Middleton and Hillsborough, Mr. Reed co-founded Belmont Heights Little League, which produced four World Series teams from 1973-81 and a handful of future big-league players.

Saturday’s mourners included former major-leaguers Gary Sheffield, Carl Everett and Jason Romano, all of whom played for Mr. Reed at Hillsborough, where he coached for roughly a quarter-century before retiring in 1997. Tony Saladino, whose 38-year-old Hills­borough County prep baseball tournament has earned national acclaim, also attended, as did Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

They were joined by dozens of Mr. Reed’s former coaching peers and school administrators, as well as several members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, to which Mr. Reed belonged. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Carl Hinson, a statistician for Mr. Reed in the mid-1970s, was among four eulogists.

"The rules were for everybody. He didn’t care if you were a superstar, third-stringer, second-stringer," Hinson said.

"I mean, this is the 1970s. John Travolta’s hanging out doing Saturday Night Fever. We all wanted long hair, but we didn’t have long hair, we had short hair. No short hair, you didn’t play. He was a firm believer that we were a team."

Father Edward Lamp drew a parallel between the passing of Mr. Reed and the recent death of Sister Mary Antona Ebo, believed to be the only African-American nun to participate in the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala. Both, Lamp noted, died peacefully after noble lives spent pursuing justice.

"The Coach Reed that I knew was very much like Sister Antona," Lamp said. "Very much a man in the background but a man who knew what justice was … and a man who died peacefully."

Blanc, the final eulogist, added the nuanced brushstrokes to the portrait of her dad.

In addition to being a devoted grandfather (of three), devout Catholic and fair-minded coach, she said her father also possessed an insatiable appetite for sweets and soap operas (Ryan’s Hope, Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest).

Mr. Reed also traveled extensively (including trips to Jerusalem and Alaska) with Dorothye, his wife of 56 years.

After retiring as a coach and teacher, he indulged his passion for golf, remained a fixture at his grandkids’ dance recitals and sporting events, and launched an indefatigable quest for the area’s best cinnamon rolls, Cuban sandwiches and barbecue ribs.

"He was a granddaddy first, and not a baseball coach, to his grandson," said Blanc, referring to her son, Eric Blanc II (a FAMU baseball player).

"He encouraged him to be a multisport athlete but instilled in him the same principles as he did for his own players. And those were life skills that were molded on and off the field and in life."

Those skills: be humble, have a good work ethic and be of good character. Applying those traits as the bedrock for all his teams, Mr. Reed molded five playoff clubs, won two Saladino Tournament titles and led one of his teams (1980) to the state tournament.

They also helped Romano become the last of Mr. Reed’s players to be taken in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Romano noted that he was selected in 1997 by the Texas Rangers, the only club that didn’t pay a visit to his house or require him to take a predraft test. When Romano asked a Rangers scout why the team had showed no prior interest, he was told team officials had seen all they needed to see of him at a Terriers game.

Those officials had been impressed by Romano’s punctuality, the way he wore his uniform, the way he helped rake the field before the game, the effort he displayed during the game, and how he treated his parents and girlfriend afterward.

"I now realize that was what the legend (Mr. Reed) instilled in everyone he coached," Romano said, his voice cracking. "Be on time, work hard, prepare, wear your uniform with pride, respect the game and your elders.

"We are all blessed to have known the legend. Love you, Coach."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

 
Comments
Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

ST. PETERSBURG — To get a sense of how things are going for the Rays right now, consider that opening day starter Chris Archer was wearing a promotional DJ Kitty head in the dugout and veteran OF Carlos Gomez was playing second base during Satu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

ST. PETERSBURG — This season has been quite a pain for Rays centerfielder and centerpiece Kevin Kiermaier.A cold bat, a nagging illness, a searing foul ball we'll come back to shortly and a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, all in the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rowdies gain needed victory

Rowdies gain needed victory

ST. PETERSBURG — Georgi Hristov, the Rowdies' all-time goals leader, extended that mark with his 59th and Junior Flemmings had a goal and two assists to lead a revamped lineup in Saturday's 3-1 win over Indy Eleven at Al Lang Stadium in front o...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, July 22

TODAYAction sportsX Games1 p.m.ABCAutosF1: German Grand Prix9:05 a.m.ESPN2Monster Energy Cup: Foxwoods Resort Casino 3011 p.m.NBCSNNHRA: Mile High Nationals3 p.m.FoxBaseballMarlins at Rays1 p.m.Fox Sun, FSF; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs2 p.m.TBSMets at Ya...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Joey Wendle continues to impress, playing anywhere asked and hitting everywhere. Friday he joined the play-of-the-year race with an amazing glove flip to first. Saturday he was the first Ray with a decent swing off Pablo Lopez, homering in the fourth...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

WASHINGTON — There was a lot of talk specific to the Rays at the All-Star Game last week, from commissioner Rob Manfred's strong endorsement of the Ybor stadium plan to Wilson Ramos' rousing ovation from the Washington fans to Blake Snell's imp...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome did not make the cut in her first PGA Tour event, but she did improve by seven shots in her second round.Lincicome shot 1-under 71 on Saturday at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., after having to wait an e...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

ST. PETERSBURG – To get a sense of how shorthanded the Rays were by the final innings of Saturday night's game, all you had to do was look at the field and see Carlos Gomez playing second base.It was that kind of night for the Rays, who lost an...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Turns out Donald Trump wasn't the only person that Bucs receiver Mike Evans reached out to on Twitter on Saturday.The Bucs receiver fired back at the president after a tweet suggesting that NFL players who protest during the national anthem should be...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs receiver Mike Evans fired back at President Donald Trump on Saturday, responding to another tweet from the White House criticizing NFL players who want to protest during the national anthem.Trump's latest tweet came after Thursday's joint announ...
Updated: 8 hours ago