Ron Polk speaks to Enterprise’s First Pitch Banquet at Cypress Landing
Published 9:40 am Tuesday, January 31, 2023
SUMMIT — Legendary Mississippi State baseball head coach Ron Polk spoke for two hours to the Enterprise baseball and softball teams Monday night. Enterprise held its First Pitch Banquet at Cypress Landing in Summit to start the season.
He is on the backside of a 36 city tour where he gives talks for free and he noted his voice was strained due to all the work and the “six or seven cigars I smoke each day.”
Cypress Landing co-owner and chef Dante Bradberry said the restaurant had 160 tickets for Ron Polk’s talk. The restaurant was filled wall to wall as players and parents listened to the wisdom Polk brought.
Head Coach Austin Hood opened the night first with a welcome and thank you message to his administration, his athletic director, maintenance man and fiancé Bailey Lott. Hood named Payne Waldrop and Nick Harris as captains of the team.
After eating his meal, Hood went back up to the podium to introduce Polk to the crowd. It took about five minutes for Hood to get through Polk’s accolades.
“I have a message. It is an honor to be with you tonight,” Polk said.
He opened with stories about all of the creative ways he got thrown out of ball games and how rivalries are just healthy competitions. One time in Fayetteville, Arkansas the home plate umpire threw him out of the game for arguing about the strike zone and told Polk to stand where the umpire couldn’t see him.
“I stood on home plate,” Polk said.
The first half of his talk brought a lot of laughter with similar anecdotes. His attention turned to serious topics in the second half.
Enterprise is a small school in a small community of Lincoln County. Polk said it is a blessing and a curse as everyone would know when you do something good and when you do something bad.
He challenged the players to think about their five best friends and if they would want Polk to meet them. Parents were also challenged to look after their children.
“I know for a fact they have more distractions than we ever dreamed about. All kinds of things going on, it is not easy,” Polk said. “They did not create this stuff, TikTok and YouTube. Adults created it. Keep an eye on them and discipline them. Get them through their most important years of their life. Look after them and love them.”
A coaches biggest job is to love their players and the team’s biggest job is to love each other. Polk had the players repeat those responsibilities back to him throughout the night.
Enterprise is a pretty young baseball team with two seniors on the squad. Polk told the players their years in Junior High and High School would shape the rest of their lives.
He told the team they couldn’t wait until college to invest their lives into what they wanted to do. Faith, hard work and making a difference are all ways they can approach life.
Polk told the team he was cut from his junior college baseball team but somehow has won the most games as a baseball head coach. He got a break at Grand Canyon University where he was able to play infield some.
His coach at GCU told him he could become a graduate assistant at Arizona and earn his masters. Polk decided he had some free time and wanted to help the baseball program. Arizona’s coach had an office up a flight of spiral stairs and to the left from the graduate assistants office.
Polk said he climbed up and down the steps three times but would get nervous and decide not to go talk to the baseball coach. The fourth time he pushed through and spoke to the coach. He was chosen to be the third base coach and helped the team go to Omaha in 1966. It gave him the start he needed to enjoy a long career.
“Have purpose. Who you walk with now and worship with right now will set the tempo for the rest of your life,” Polk said. “Have faith, work hard and make a difference. I’m a living testament to that.”
After the talk, Polk spoke to each player one-on-one before signing his book “The Baseball Playbook,” for them. Waldrop was one of the last players to visit with Polk.
He is a senior and will captain the Yellow Jackets this year. Waldrop had some takeaways from the talk.
“I liked it. A lot of the things he said all of the stories he told us I enjoyed,” Waldrop said. “I have sometimes faced distractions. Polk telling us how to handle them helped. I love listening to him. I think our players will use it as an example. I think it will help us love the game more.”
His goal this year is for the team to get through the first round of the playoffs. Hood called his team a well disciplined team but they needed direction when he took over this summer.
They have worked hard in the weight room and on the field to get ready for opening day. Ridgeland is their first game on February 11. It will be Hood’s first game in charge.
“He seems to make us better. We like listening to him coach. Him and Bailey are good people,” Waldrop said. “We have become way better over the offseason. We have come together as a team. He is really good at coaching. I think he is teaching us a lot.”
Bradberry was the last person to get a book signed by Polk. He told his wife Sara Bradberry her dad Tim Leonard would have been thrilled to see Polk at Cypress Landing. Leonard was a native of Brookhaven and a huge Mississippi State fan. He died in Oct. 2020.
Polk wished everyone a good night and slipped out the door into the fog to begin his four hour journey home to Starkville. His next talk is in Birmingham.