Dalton Daily CItizen, Catoosa Life Magazine
Issue link: http://www.ifoldsflip.com/i/686790
12 Catoosa Life Magazine / JUNE / JULY 2016 was into baseball. "He loved playing it when he was a toddler," she said. "He had a bat and a ball all the time." When his father Wayne arrived home from working for Norfolk Southern Railroad, Rick would be waiting for him outside, ready to throw the ball. "Most of the time I didn't get to even come in the house," Wayne said. Wayne was also Rick's coach for sever- al years during Little League play in Fort Oglethorpe. Another person who influenced him greatly was Jack Archer. When Honeycutt was about 11 or 12, Archer became the director of the sum- mer programs. Each morning, he opened the fields at 9 or 10, and a group of kids went there to "do different drills and do fundamentals." "There would only be maybe a dozen of us at times, but the field was open, and we would ride our bikes up there, and it was like a baseball camp," Honeycutt said. He said that group of kids continued to play together through high school. They went on to become state champi- ons with Archer as their coach. Honeycutt said those summers of prac- ticing fundamentals — getting out there with a pitching machine and just doing drills — was more valuable than many games on the road. "That I think really is the stuff that should be going on today," he said. "It's not just the kids playing games but teaching the fundamentals of the game." What advice does he offer to kids who are interested in one day playing profes- sionally? "I think the toughest thing today is that people want to determine at such an early age what sports you're going to do," Honeycutt said. During his teen years, he and his par- ents differed as to what they thought was the best approach. Wayne said that while Rick enjoyed all sports in high school, he did try to per- suade him to narrow his focus. "I tried to get him to drop out of foot- ball because I knew he was better in baseball, but he was a quarterback in football and wanted to play it all," Wayne recalled. "I told him, 'Your baseball is your best sport, and I wish you would drop out,' but he wanted to play. And he excelled in all of them." Honeycutt said he found each experi- ence valuable in its own way. He said he and that group of friends that began playing together as preteens continued to play not only baseball but any sport that was in season. They played on school teams, and they played outside school on empty lots, in backyards and on paved surfaces. "(Basketball) was my worst sport, but it was probably the sport that I had to work the hardest to get better at," Honeycutt said, explaining he learned different values, ethics and even tech- niques by not limiting himself to just one sport. "All those things (are) part of your growing," he said. "If you want to be in a sport, you have to learn how to be a proper teammate and discipline your- self." For Honeycutt, sports was play, and play was sports. There was not much dif- ference between the two. College vs. pros Rena said Rick dreamed of playing professional ball from at least the time he was 4 or 5. She said they watched New York Yankees games on television while Rick lay on the floor and took in the whole game. "He said, 'One day when I get big, I'm gonna play for the New York Yankees,'" she said. "I said, 'Oh, that'll be good, but you'll have to be really good.'" He would go on to make his major league debut at Yankee Stadium in August 1977, but he would be wearing a Seattle Mariners jersey. In 1995, he joined the Yankees ball club but was traded the next year to the St. Louis Cardinals. Even at a young age, Rick was just as ambitious about his aspirations for play- ing football. The youngster began to dream of spending his adult years playing baseball in summer and football in winter. College football scholarships came, but he turned them down. As a high school sen- ior, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, but he was not a high draft pick, and he heeded his parents' advice to focus first on school. "We told him, 'Rick, you might not make it, and then you've messed up on college,'" Rena said. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville offered him a baseball scholar- ship that paid all of his expenses, and he decided to take it. A couple of years later, he married Debbie Davis, and they moved into housing provided for mar- ried couples. Debbie worked to pay for other expenses. Rick went on to make All-American as a first baseman and complete his degree in marketing and Rethinking kids' sports Childhood sports are great — as long as they aren't taken too seriously, according to Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "I hate people screaming and yelling from the stands and put- ting pressure on (the kids)," he said. "Let them just enjoy playing and sportsmanship. It's not life or death."