Orlando is synonymous with magic – the Magic Kingdom at nearby Walt Disney World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort and the city’s aptly named NBA franchise. On Saturday evening, Cotuit Kettleers manager Mike Roberts and four others shared a magical moment of their own when they were inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.
This is the highest honor the 70-year-old ABCA bestows upon individuals and is the organization’s way of recognizing the very best leaders for their outstanding contributions to baseball and the ABCA.
The ceremony, which also included the enshrinement of Denney Crabaugh, Mark Fuller, Fred Hill and Ray Korn, highlighted the 2015 ABCA/Diamond Hall of Fame/Coach of the Year Banquet at the Marriott Orlando World Center Resort & Convention Center. The banquet and Sunday’s ABCA Honors Luncheon were the two can’t-miss events during the ACBA Convention at the 2,000-room Marriott resort in the heart of Central Florida.
The convention got under way Friday with committee meetings, a huge trade show and divisional meetings. The trade show and clinics occupied most of Saturday, a day which also included a spouses’ breakfast and the evening banquet, highlighted by the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, presentation of the Lefty Gomez Award and announcement of the regional and national Coaches of the Year.
The Lefty Gomez Award, one of the most prestigious awards in all of amateur baseball, is presented each year to an individual who distinguishes himself among his peers and contributes significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally. This year’s winner was Pat McMahon, head coach at the University of Florida from 2001-07, Mississippi State (1998-2001) and Old Dominion (1990-94) before joining the New York Yankees, for whom he now serves as coordinator of international player development.
Named National Coaches of the Year for their work in 2014 were Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt, NCAA Division I; Tracy Archuleta, Southern Indiana, NCAA Division II; John Vodenlich, Wisconsin-Whitewater, NCAA Division III; Woody Hunt, Cumberland, NAIA; Marc Rardin, Iowa Western Community College, NJCAA Division I; Tony Cirelli, Mesa CC, NJCAA Division II; Doug Wren, Tyler Junior College, NJCAA Division III, and Jody Allen, College of the Sequoias, Pacific Association. Additionally, the association honored three high school coaches – Fred Burdside, South Dade High School, Florida; James Patrick, Clovis High School, California; and Bob Greco, Omaha Westside High School, Nebraska.
At Sunday’s Honors Luncheon, the ABCA presented its Honor Award and Meritorious Service Awards and recognized the ABCA/Baseball America 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year, Butch Thompson of Mississippi State.
Co-recipients of this year’s Honor Award were Robert Manfred, incoming Commissioner of Major League Baseball; and Ned Yost, manager of the 2014 American League champion Kansas City Royals, both of whom spoke during the luncheon.
The Meritorious Service Award, presented to a person who has proved himself/herself in service to amateur baseball and the ABCA and whose actions and involvement have resulted in a notable impact on the sport, went to Carma Brown of the Challenger Baseball Program.
More than 325 companies offered exhibits at the trade show, displaying state-of-the-art equipment and products, including coaching aids, apparel, field equipment, pitching machines and software. Many products will be shown for the first time. The show concluded Sunday afternoon.
Walt Disney World hosted a special event for convention goers Sunday evening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Guests attending the event enjoyed food and drink, entertainment and a tour of the facility, which includes the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves.
Roberts, who will enter his 12th season at the helm of the Kettleers this summer, has led Cotuit to the playoffs seven times, twice capturing the Arnold Mycock Trophy as Cape Cod Baseball League champions. In two seasons as Wareham manager (1984, 2000), Roberts’ teams finished first in the West Division and the ’84 club advanced to the postseason finals. Both of Roberts’ Wareham clubs led the Cape League in stolen bases, with the 2000 team tying the Cape League single-season record with 134 steals.
In 2012, Cotuit won the President’s Trophy for the best regular season record in the league at 30-14, the first time the Kettleers reached 30 wins under Roberts.
From 1978-98, Roberts was the head coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a period in which his Tar Heels made the NCAA Tournament nine times and twice participated in the NCAA College World Series in Omaha. Then he went on to UNC-Asheville, where he coached in the spring of 2000. Roberts’ teams captured five Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championships and four ACC Tournament titles.
Eight of Roberts’ former players have been first-round draft picks. Sixteen of his former players at UNC have played in Major League Baseball. His greatest individual coaching success is his own son, Brian Roberts, a two-time All-Star second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles who recently retired after one season with the New York Yankees. Brian served as a batboy for his dad at Wareham and played in the Cape League in 1998 at Chatham.
Walt Weiss, who played for Roberts at UNC-Chapel Hill and at Wareham in ’84, went on to become the American League Rookie of the year in 1988 and recently was named manager of the Colorado Rockies. Five of Roberts’ former players are now collegiate head coaches, many are assistants and several others work in professional baseball or as advisors to professional baseball players.
“I am pleased so many of the excellent student/athletes I have recruited through the years continue to enjoy a career helping young men try to reach their academic, athletic and career goals,” Mike said.
In the offseason, Roberts has studied part time for his doctorate in sports administration at the University of New Mexico, conducts base stealing clinics, and writes and produces baseball videos. He has written two books, “You Can’t Steal Second Base and Keep Your Foot on First!,” published in December 2008, and “Baserunning,” published in December 2013. He is a consultant with professional and college teams on base stealing and base running.
Several base stealing videos were filmed at Elizabeth Lowell Park in Cotuit in 2011 and a hitting video was filmed at Lowell Park in 2012. Son Brian, who led the American League in stolen bases in 2007, contributed to the first book and to the DVD, which includes clips of Brian stealing bases for the Orioles.
Mike works full time for Asbury University, outside of Lexington, Ky., as a professor and director of the Department of Sports Management. He consults for two sports industry leaders during the offseason. He is director of baseball development for Tyngsboro, Mass.-based SmartKage, a high-technology firm which has developed a system that evaluates and reports exact athletic performance levels by sport, age and system. He also consults for TeamExos (formerly Athletes’ Performance), driving the business development for baseball with minor league and major league baseball players.
“I am humbled and honored to be selected by my coaching peers for induction to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame,” Roberts said last year after learning of the vote. “I have been richly blessed to have the opportunity to teach and coach baseball the past 40 years. I want to thank the wonderful people who have supported and mentored me on and off the baseball field and also the student-athletes, schools, and organizations who have given me the opportunity to work with them.”