Many times you hear stories, and most of the time that is just what they are, but today’s writing is no story. It’s the God honest truth. I am 36 years old, and I have never met a man, who had that Golden Touch until I met Coach (Gary) Jones. Gary came into my family’s life, not a very long time ago in early 2001. Gary watched me hitting ground balls to my son Michael on a baseball diamond while there was still snow on the ground. Apparently he liked what he saw because he asked, if I’d like to coach baseball with him, so he could protect Michael for little league the following season. What a life changing experience that turned out to be for not only Michael, but for me a 36 year old man as well. Gary’s touch, his soft voice, and warm friendliness took on a greater meaning of friendship. Gary taught me many things, we shared quite a few stories, and even a few beers, but the most important thing that I learned from Gary would be his Golden Touch. I have never met a person who touched so many lives, in so many ways, and who I never heard anything spoken negatively about. He simply knew how to love life, people, and everything he did. Everyone knew that when he saw the girls he’d say “Come here Sissy where’s my hug”. He was never to be in a bad or grumpy mood, always smiling, and always had something positive to say, each and every day. Even on those days when he was done coaching one game and umpiring two, where he had taken a foul ball off his big toe, (turning it a nice shade of egg plant purple) never mad because he had forgotten his steel toed shoes.
I’m 36 years old, and I met a man almost twice my age that saw life like a child does. Gary was always smiling, he was happy, and a pleasure to be around. He would come over at 7:30 AM, sit on my deck and with coffee mug in hand read the morning paper and wait for me and my family to get out of bed. “Don’t You Love It When a Plan Comes Together” Gary would say as I was still in my pajamas and half asleep. Then he’d come in and spend an hour with us, talking, laughing, joking, and being the sixty-something year old boy that he was, would have to run home soon, cause “Momma” would be expecting him. What great many hours they were, that my family shared with Coach Jones.
And who can forget about Little League. The man with the Golden Touch coached for 30 some years. In Baseball there is a man named Denton True (CY) Young he has over 500 wins, and is in the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens has over 300 Wins, and one day will be in the Hall of Fame. Gary talked with me last winter about needing eight (8) more wins to reach 400 career wins. This year Gary’s team not only won eight (8) games to help him reach 400 for his career, they also won the city championship, back to back mind you, as they also won it in 2002. Gary, like Cy Young and Roger Clemens, is a Hall of Famer. He has given Little League more than 30 years of his life. Please stop and think… 30 Years. 30 Years. I doubt someone ever again will devote that much time and passion as Gary did to Little League again. When you think about how long Gary coached, and you think of the number of boys each year, and each season, that Gary’s Golden Touch reached, the number is astounding. I know that as a 36 year old man, I have never witnessed a man with so much good, that he could never do wrong.
I saw Gary a few days before he passed. He was in the hospital, and though he didn’t look good, he was still all smiles when I came in to see him. We talked for a brief period of time, and I said “I would see him soon, and that I loved him”. I made my peace with him, and I am happy that he knew I loved him.
To steal a quote from one of Gary’s other coach – Corey Cates, “Thank you Gary for letting me coach next to a LEGEND”. Your Golden Touch has reached way beyond the boys of little league, but to this 36 year old man’s heart, and many others as well.
P.S. Gary – “Twenty Years and Twenty Beers and who will remember”. Every single one of us Coach Jones, every single one of us.