Booth inducted into Hall of Fame
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
HOOVER – In 1988, a lot of people were skeptical when William Booth took the job as baseball coach at Hartselle High School. After all, it's a long leap from Little League coach to directing a high school team.
"Some people thought it was funny when J.P. Cain asked my father to be the high school coach," son Mason Booth said. "They thought a Little League coach wouldn't be able to win at that level. But I knew it would work, and now he's still there 16 years later and he's still winning."
Booth's teams are still winning, so much so that last Saturday night he was inducted into the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Mason introduced his father and recalled how he and his teammates on his father's Little League team started a season by losing their first two games. His father then instituted team practice from 3:30 p.m. until dark. The extra worked paid off, as the squad won the next 12 games straight.
That work ethic, and his love for the game, also earned Booth the praise of Jim Wells, baseball coach at The University of Alabama and keynote speaker for the induction ceremony.
"He (Booth) was the first high school coach I met after taking the (University of) Alabama job," said Wells. "I was on a recruiting trip and he took me to see some players he thought could play at the college level. After showing me some of his own players, he drove me around to other schools and showed me more kids. That's how much he loves the game, he wants all kids to have a chance to make it in this game."
During his time as HHS coach, Booth's teams have won six state championships (1990,1991,1992,1994,1999 and 2000) and were state runners-up twice, in 1993 and 1998. He's been named by The Birmingham News as state Coach of the Year six times and 10 times as the Decatur Daily's Coach of the Year. Before coaching at the high school level, he won two Little League state championship titles and his teams finished as state runner-up twice.
During his acceptance speech, Booth himself pointed to the hard work of his players as his key to success.
"We didn't teach technique in those early years, we didn't know technique. But I knew that football teams practiced twice a day. So that's what we did," Booth said. "We began to practice twice a day during baseball season, and it seemed to work."
He also thanked his wife, Peggy, for her support.
"I thought about retiring a time or two and she would encourage me to go on coaching," Booth said. "That's why I'm here tonight."
And of course, he thanked Cain, the man who gave him his chance as HHS baseball
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coach and paved the way for Booth's and so many of his player's successes.
"We've had seven kids drafted by pro ball, 78 of our players have signed college scholarships," Booth said.
"But the thing I am most proud of is 52 of them have graduated from college, that means more to me than championships."