Wren native Butch Thompson was the featured speaker at the Aug. 8 meeting of the Amory Rotary Club.
He completed his fourth season as head baseball coach of the Auburn University Tigers this year. He is a veteran of seven seasons at Mississippi State as both associate head coach and pitching coach.
He wrapped up his remarks about his career by paying tribute to a couple of the hometown heroes in his life that have helped to shape his success.
Thompson began with his father, who passed away last year.
“My nickname prescribed by my father was ‘0 for,’” he said. “I had a lot of ‘0 for’ games where I was just trying to figure out which base to back up (as a pitcher).”
His memories off the playing field center on a popular eating place in Amory.
“After the game we would drive to Dairy Kream, where they told me whatever you want, you’ve got it.”
Dad faithfully treated Thompson as his gesture of support.
Thompson’s favorite was the banana splits, to which he could add as much as he wanted before they headed out to Coontail Road for more practice.
Thompson recalled how he consulted with his ailing father for an opinion on whether to accept the offer from Auburn and move to south Alabama.
“'You’re an idiot,'” Thompson quoted him as saying. “'They’re going to crush you!'”
After the initial bluff, his father got around to his real opinion.
“'I’m proud of you. Go get ‘em and take care of your girls,'” he said.
Thompson needed that conversation with his father to provide the resolution needed before traveling to Auburn the next day to accept the position.
“'Do one thing for me, because you’ve got your work cut out for you,'” Dad added. “'You love those boys with all your heart.'”
Thompson elaborated on how the love factor has anchored his career path.
“I love Mississippi State, and I love everywhere I’ve ever been,” he said. “This has been from above, for my father to give me the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in my life – ‘just love ‘em like crazy.’”
Thompson frequently uses the passage from Matthew 22:36-40 when he talks to men, which are the two commandments that anchor all of Scripture - loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.
The second memory Thompson shared with his audience was about the bull in the ring rite on the football field at Amory High School with coach Bobby Hall.
“They would circle us up and take turns standing in the middle to take a punch,” he recalled. “I would hide behind Ricky McCall doing a half-squat.”
The maneuver failed one day when McCall stooped over to tie his shoe, and Thompson was called out to take his turn in the middle of the ring. Hall ordered Thompson out after he was reduced to crouching on one knee after taking his blows. He eventually learned how to prevail against the punches.
“Greatness is within us. There are things bigger than sports. Our minds are so powerful that we can pull it out of the wall and put it on the table right this second,” he said.
Thompson said the grueling exercise of the bull in the ring was a huge moment for him.
“It takes a lot of fear out of everything I’ve ever done and it happened right over there,” he said. “If I hadn’t gotten that bull in the ring, I wouldn’t be standing here before you today. I tell my guys that I can’t put them in the bull in the ring, but I’d sure like to.”