Ron Polk to speak at fundraiser
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 12:00 AM
Legendary Mississippi State University baseball coach Ron Polk will be the guest speaker at the First Pitch Dinner presented by the Philadelphia High School baseball and softball teams.
Softball coach Austin McNair said Polk was a great choice for the first time event, which will be held annually.
"Everyone's real excited," he said.
The dinner will be held at the Philadelphia Country Club at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1.
Polk, the winningest coach in any sport in the history of the Southeastern Conference, is in his fifth season as University of Alabama at Birmingham's volunteer assistant coach. Polk came to UAB in 2009 after announcing his retirement from the Mississippi State program in 2008.
In July 2009, Polk was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1995. In 1988, he was presented with the Lefty Gomez Award, the highest award given by the ABCA.
Polk retired from Mississippi State, following his 29th season at the school. He ranks seventh all-time in NCAA career head coaching victories.
Polk concluded his 35-year career as a head coach with a career record of 1,373-700-2 (.662). In his career, which also included stints at Georgia Southern (1972-75) and Georgia (2000-01), Polk led his teams to a total of eight College World Series appearances, five SEC championships and 23 Regional appearances. He is one of only three coaches in college baseball history to take three different programs to the College World Series.
Polk mentored current UAB head coach Brian Shoop when the Blazer skipper was on his staff at Mississippi State from 1983-89. The Bulldogs won three SEC championships and made one trip to the College World Series during that time.
At Mississippi State, Polk recruited and coached some of the game's all-time greats, including Major League standouts Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jonathan Papelbon. Those are just a few of the 185 of his former players that have signed professional contracts and a few of the 23 that have played in the Major Leagues.
A three-time National Coach of the Year, Polk held the position of Assistant Athletics Director for Special Projects at Mississippi State following his team's College World Series run in 1997. While in that position, Polk spearheaded a successful campaign to expand Polk-DeMent Stadium in Starkville. He returned to coaching at Georgia in 2000, where he spent two years before making the move back to Mississippi State for his final seven seasons.
Perhaps Polk's most talented Mississippi State squad ever was the 1985 version. That club finished the year 50-15 and was SEC champion before going on to appear in the College World Series. The 1985 Bulldog club featured future major league stars Brantley, Clark, Palmeiro and Thigpen.
In addition to Polk's work in the collegiate ranks, the Boston, Mass., native has completed seven tours as a member of the coaching staff for the USA National Baseball Team, twice serving as head coach. Two of the teams he coached represented the United States in the Olympics.
Polk has also impacted the college baseball world through his literary work. He has authored "The Baseball Playbook," the nation's leading college textbook for baseball, and is featured in the book, "6 Psychological Factors for Success: America's Most Successful Coaches Reveal the Path to Competitive Excellence."
On getting Polk to speak in Philadelphia, McNair credited the efforts of PHS baseball coach Cody Freeman, who was under Polk's direction for three years at MSU.
"He [Freeman] asked Polk to speak," McNair said. "He's [Polk] real good to give back to his former players."
Besides Polk, guests can look forward to dishes prepared by parents and the meals served by the players. John King will be the master of ceremonies and a prayer will be offered by a member of the Tornado Delegation.
"We're shooting for 100 guests," McNair said. "Hopefully we'll get that and if we have more, [than 100] great."
The idea for the dinner came from McNair and Freeman, who were trying to come up with a fundraiser for the teams that would be "good for everyone."
The money, McNair said, will be split between the teams and spent on any needs they might have.
"We're also trying to get some sponsorships and donations," he said. "They'll be featured in the dinner's program."
Tickets are $20 each are can be purchased from any baseball or softball player or from the PHS office.