Booth to retire from full-time duties, still coach baseball after 57 years in Hartselle school system
By Bruce McLellan
For the Enquirer
William Booth will end 57 years of full-time employment with Hartselle City Schools when he retires as assistant superintendent Sept. 1, but district officials said he can continue as baseball coach at the high school where he set the state’s all-time wins record.
School board member Daxton Maze said the district will work out a contract that only involves coaching baseball for Booth, who turns 79 in August.
“We’re looking at the administrative pieces to see if that’s something that he still has the desire to continue, and if he does I think we’ll make that work,” Maze said.
In 36 seasons as Hartselle’s coach, Booth has won 1,172 games, more than any other high school baseball head coach in state history. He said he wants to continue leading the program.
“I’m coaching as long as I’m healthy and successful,” he said. “If I’m not successful, they’ll run me off, I guess.”
Booth battled cancer in his stomach, intestines and liver during the 2021 season and lost 50 pounds in eight weeks. But he said he has now been in remission for two years.
“I’m healthier now than I’ve been in four years,” he said Tuesday after attending a Hartselle school board meeting. He said his weight is up to about 175 pounds after dropping as low as 122 pounds.
Booth said he is retiring from his assistant superintendent role because it is better for his family financially in the state retirement program. The Hartselle board approved his retirement at its July 11 meeting.
Superintendent Brian Clayton said the agreement for Booth to coach baseball has not been finalized and said there are no concerns about Booth coaching in retirement. He pointed to the team’s state championship in 2022 — it’s ninth under Booth — and runner-up finish in 2021.
“There’s a lot of great things going on with Hartselle baseball,” Clayton said. “Jake Miles is out there as an assistant. Jake does a very good job with us.”
Maze, who played baseball in high school for Booth, said the system can hire coaches under non-employee agreements and that Gary Orr coached the girl’s basketball team for several years after retiring from full-time duties.
“We’ve got several non-employee agreements with coaches …,” Maze said. “Our tennis coach, soccer coach, they’re an expert in that field but they don’t necessarily work as an educator day to day. They still can bring value to the sport they’re coaching and continue to do it at a high level.”
Clayton said no decision has been made on the status of the assistant superintendent position and he is reassessing it. He said the assistant superintendent has handled transportation, the Child Nutrition Program and other general operations. He said some of those duties have been picked up by Director of Operations Rocky Smith.
Booth joined Hartselle City Schools as a math teacher in 1966 and didn’t become baseball coach until 1988. He later moved into administration and kept his coaching duties.
“If we need some math help, we may let him go do some tutoring somewhere,” Maze said. “He’s an exceptional math mind. Everybody that goes to college that took calculus in Hartselle said calculus is really easy at whatever college they were at because Coach Booth trained them so well. I was one of those.”
Maze said Booth will remain an asset to the school system even in retirement.
“When you’ve got somebody with the pedigree and the history and the resume that Coach Booth does, he is a great ambassador for Hartselle, just a great ambassador for our city, our schools,” Maze said.
Booth said he is eager to continue his associations with the players who’ll be on the 2024 team and will concentrate on helping pitchers develop.
“We’re going to physically work them hard,” he said. “I’m physically able to do it now.”
Booth’s Hartselle teams won Class 5A state championships in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2009 and 2013 and a Class 6A championship in 2022. His 1,172-506 record gives him a winning percentage of .698.