Middlesboro baseball has been synonymous with winning for quite some time and over the past 30 years no one has played a bigger role in keeping that tradition alive than coach Bill Powell.
Powell retired from coaching and teaching at the end the 2012 school year and baseball season. Tuesday the Middlesboro School Board held a reception prior to their meeting to recognized Powell for his accomplishments over his 30-year career.
“I’ve been real blessed. My family has always supported me and stood by me. I’ve appreciated the school system and how they have allowed me the opportunity to coach,” Powell said during his speech. “I spoke to my sons on the phone today and they were telling me how sometimes people say: ‘We’ve been really fortunate to have you.’ But trust me the blessing is all mine. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with so many people that otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to over the years.”
Powell played football and baseball at Middlesboro High School before accepting a football scholarship to Morehead State University, then a division one program. After one year at Morehead, he transferred to LMU where he played baseball.
He became Middlesboro’s head baseball coach in 1983 and served in that capacity for a total of 25 seasons. Other than the 1985 and 2005 seasons, he’s been a part of the Yellow Jacket baseball team every year since ‘83. Powell was an assistant coach from 2006 to 2008 and then became the head coach again from 2009 to 2012.
“He’s been a very special person in our district,” Superintendent Dr. Rita Cook said before reading off a list of Powell’s achievements.
It’s quite an impressive list.
In his 25 years as head coach Powell led the Yellow Jackets to 553 wins, 18 district titles, five regional titles, three sectional titles and three state final four appearances in 1992, 1999 and 2002. Middlesboro also finished as regional runners up five times under Powell and won four All “A” regional championships and three All “A” sectionals.
“My name goes on this for all these championships, but I’ve got to tell you that Steve Spangler was right by my side for 17 or 18 years. It was just he and I for so many of those years,” Powell said after receiving a plaque listing the above accomplishments. “I just think sometimes it’s a little unfair for me to receive all the accolades when Steve was there doing his part. He’s an outstanding coach and an outstanding friend.”
Powell was inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Middlesboro Sports Hall of Fame as a player and coach in 2009. Through the years he has also coached football, golf, cross country and middle school basketball.
“I know you’ve had a lot of gatherings and parties (with former players) already,” Cook said to Powell before presenting him with the plaque from the school board. “We appreciate you coming in tonight and letting us recognize you. Thank you so much for all that you’ve done.”
Kenny Pratt also presented Powell with a poster filled with photos and clippings commemorating Powell’s achievements.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to serve. I’m somewhat overwhelmed when I think about the fact that there have been an awful lot of people — I think about my mom, my wife and many people here that have given so much for so many years,” Powell said. “I’ve been truly blessed with a lot of great athletes and a lot of great kids along with a lot of great parents and families.”
Most Powell-coached teams played with an air of confidence, bordering on cockiness. They were aggressive on the base paths and sound defensively. But most of all they played with a competitive spirit and will to win that can be traced directly to Powell’s leadership.
At times Powell’s competitiveness may have rubbed an opposing coach or two the wrong way, whether it was through using a trick play or not being afraid to say when he thought he had the better team. But he always stood up for his players on the field and for proof he treated them right off of it, just look at how many of those players and their families have continued to support Powell after their playing days were over. Many of them gathered at his home for a surprise party this past weekend. It was their own way of recognizing the outstanding career he’s had as their mentor and friend.
“My sons and my wife (Becky) got together and collaborated to put on a really great surprise for me Saturday. There were an awful lot of people there and Becky had to have been planning the party for some time,” Powell said. “There were players from 25 years ago, 20 years ago and so on. It’s amazing that our relationships with people outside of our family and through coaching have continued on for all these years.”