|Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, Courtesy |
From right, Amy, Andy, and Peggy Pratt along with former Chino Valley baseball player Jason Brooks listen to Coach Bill McKnight talk about former Coach Tom Pratt Thursday afternoon in Chino Valley. Coach Pratt passed away this past December and was being honored during a double header against Williams High School.
|Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier,Courtesy|
Amy Pratt, daughter of former Chino Valley High School baseball coach Tom Pratt throws out a ceremonial first pitch to her brother Andy Pratt Thursday afternoon in Chino Valley. Coach Pratt passed away this December and was being honored during a double header against Williams High School.
CHINO VALLEY - The late Tom Pratt instilled leadership, commitment, dedication, sacrifice and responsibility in his players, said Chino Valley assistant baseball coach Bill McKnight.
"They learned more than just how to play baseball at Pratt Field," McKnight said.
A group of Cougar alumni showed how well they learned their lessons by gathering at Pratt-Nesbitt Field Thursday to honor Pratt's memory.
The longtime coach and former athletic director at both Chino Valley and Bradshaw Mountain high schools died this past December after battling a brain tumor.
With his family - wife, Peggy, son, Andy, and daughter, Amy - present, the Cougars dedicated the second game of a doubleheader against Williams High School to him.
McKnight told the crowd the Chino Valley baseball program still is based on the tenets Pratt established in 1981. He said he sees evidence of it every day, from the annual Cougar Camp for Little Leaguers to each season's new crop of freshmen. Or, as Pratt called them, the "peach fuzz gang."
Alumnus Jason Brooks, referring to notes he jotted on a lineup card, said Pratt was not only a coach, but a teacher as well.
"He was very honest when giving advice," Brooks said, eliciting chuckles from the Pratt family. "I'm looking forward to having my son play here next year on the field coach Pratt built."
Amy Pratt, who flew in for the day from Dallas, Texas, where she is Director of Sales at Cowboys Stadium, spoke on behalf of the family, after receiving a baseball cap from McKnight.
"Twenty years ago, this was a cow pasture," she said, noting her mom would take the two kids to work on the field. "He (Tom) didn't build the field for himself, but for all you guys. The 'C' on this hat meant a lot to him."
Amy, a volleyball star at Chino Valley High School, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to her brother, Andy, a baseball star who went on to play Major League ball, at home plate.
Andy, now a scout for MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, was in town overnight on a trip from Florida to Washington.
After the ceremony, both of Tom's children said they knew they needed to be at the event. Amy couldn't attend the ceremony two years ago that dedicated the field to her dad and current Chino baseball head coach Bruce Nesbitt.
She recalled not being allowed to touch the "special red dirt" while serving as water girl for the volunteers building the field decades ago.
"And after I was in high school, I wasn't allowed past the gate, because of the policy of no girls in the dugout," she said with a smile.
Peggy shared how many community members helped with the field project, because Tom didn't want the school to have to pay for it.
"A lot of parents were contractors," she said. "And the outfield fences came from Arizona State University, when they re-did their field."
That happened because of another of Tom's many baseball contacts. After coaching at Bradshaw Mountain and leading Chino Valley to back-to-back Class 3A state championship appearances, Pratt went on to serve as pitching coach for Chicago Cubs' farm teams.
He passed away from complications of a cancerous brain tumor on Dec. 4. He was 62.