Billy Reed couldn't be prouder of baseball players he has coached at Hillsborough High. Some, like Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Floyd Youmans and Keith Jones, went on to play in the major leagues.
But do not forget the others, Reed said: the judges and lawyers and doctors and teachers and everybody else who played for him, and then made good on their ambitions.
Now, Reed will make good on one of his own, lending his name to a field that spawned and nurtured his brand of dreams for almost three decades.
At its meeting today, the Hillsborough County School Board plans to name the baseball complex at Hillsborough High in honor of Reed, who coached there 27 years. He also coached 13 years at Middleton, then a junior high school. He helped found the Belmont Heights Little League.
School Board policy allows naming fields for people, but not many are, said Vernon Korhn, assistant director of athletics for Hillsborough Schools. Wade Boggs Field at Plant High, his alma mater, is one example. So is the athletic complex at Durant High, named for Ron Frost, the principal who succumbed to leukemia last year.
And now there will be Billy Reed Field.
"No question it's a great honor, but he's very deserving," Korhn said. "About the best thing I can say about Billy Reed is that he's been a real fine example for an awful lot of young people, both as a teacher and as a coach. Period."
Reed, 66, who retired from coaching last season and from teaching physical education in 1995, estimates he has coached "close to 1,000" high school baseball players. He still attends games, but as a fan, away from the dugout.
"I want him to use his own philosophy, not mine," Reed said of John Earley, the new baseball coach at Hillsborough. "He wants to borrow mine; that's fine. But he has to be his own man. We might get the same results, but we can't do it the same way. We're different people."
Times are different, too. Back in the beginning, Reed said, kids were more attentive. "They were more aggressive, more dedicated," he said. "Today it's more, "Do this' and they ask, "Why?' "
Years ago, he said, "you had some problems with parents, but now if you don't play their kids, they get a lawyer or they call the principal."
Still, he added, "I've had more great parents than I've had bad, who donate their time and cheer not only for their own sons, but also for the other players. They support the team."
Before today's honor, Reed had several other fond memories: winning his 400th game three years ago, being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Florida A & M, and putting his hand in concrete for the Walk-of-Fame at Tropicana Field.
But getting his name attached to Hillsborough High's field may be the sweetest, though long overdue, recognition, according to Reed's wife.
"This is an honor, you know it is," said Dorothy Reed, who retired from teaching last year after 37 years. "He has, I think, paid his dues."