Booth shuns the personal limelight
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
MADISON – Immediately upon setting the record for Alabama's winningest high school baseball coach, Hartselle's William Booth was set upon by a group of media that isn't typically seen at a regular season high school baseball game.
There were newspaper reporters from Decatur, Hartselle, Huntsville and even a television cameraman from a local Huntsville station and they all wanted to know the same thing from Booth – did you ever think you'd reach this level of success?
"It never even crossed my mind," the coach said. "I never thought I'd even win 100 games. It was just going to be a temporary job but I fell in love with it."
That love brought Booth and the city of Hartselle nearly two decades of baseball on par with any program in the state. The numbers are staggering – 649 wins (and counting, as it says on the commemorative shirts handed out after Booth's victory), six state titles (and counting, hopefully) and one high school math teacher who took his enjoyment of coaching Little League baseball and turned it into a legendary career.
When I first met Booth, it was to conduct an interview for the Enquirer's baseball preview section for this season. As a sports reporter, I was compelled to ask Booth the question of whether he was thinking about his upcoming milestone. The coach had a short and sweet answer in response.
"Don't worry about that," he said. "We worry about the team, not about me."
Booth has always been willing to deflect the spotlight away from himself and instead to his players, something that was again noticeable at his postgame interview after the historic win.
"It's quite a feat, but we're here on a mission to win a state championship," he told reporters. "This is a good start. We want to be playing well as we head into the playoffs in two weeks."
Booth remains humble when it comes to personal milestones, but there is still a twinkle of arrogance in his voice when it comes to discussing his team. That kind of arrogance is a good thing, however. It's a confidence that trickles down from the coach and eventually affects the players as well.
"His expectations as a teacher and a coach have always been high," assistant coach Chris Heaps said.
That confidence is starting to show in a Tigers team that swept Class 6A Bob Jones and at the time had won nine of its last 10 games.
The Tigers want to be playing their best baseball of the season as they head into the playoffs and Booth will accept nothing less. No. 648 is a nice number, no doubt, and it's a number that Booth will always be proud of.
But No. 7 would be so much sweeter.