Bearcats honor former skipper Toby White

By T. Scott Boatright

The celebration for the Ruston High School baseball game started before the Bearcats’ win over West Ouachita got underway.

Former Bearcat skipper Toby White, who retired from coaching and teaching last summer after 15 years overseeing the RHS baseball program, was honored in a pregame ceremony and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. A reception with refreshments was also held after the game.

Current RHS head coach Zack Smith, who served as an assistant under White for five seasons before taking over for him, said he was pleased to have the RHS baseball community show their appreciation to their former leader.

“It’s just great to have him back and be honored like this,” Smith said. “All the years he coached at Ruston, and all the years he’s been coaching. He had an effect on a lot of kids, so we appreciate him and his family for coming here tonight and allowing us to honor him.”

White posted a coaching record of 348-197 during his 15-year tenure as head coach after leaving his role as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech.

But White had also previously been in charge of the baseball programs at Monroe’s St. Frederick High School and the University of Central Arkansas, and has a 32-year career coaching record of 568-337.

White credits his approach with people as playing a crucial role in his success.

“One thing that never changes is dealing with people,” White said. “The kids were the fun part of it. They kept me going. How the game operates over the years changed some, but the way you deal with people, and the way I love working with and guiding young people, that never changed.”

White’s ability as a psychologist of sorts helped in that aspect.

“Probably the biggest challenge in coaching is dealing with individual personalities and beginning to realize, ‘OK, what motivates one kid doesn’t motivate another.’ Learning to handle those guys and what makes one guy tick and what makes the other guy tick? That’s the toughest challenge in coaching.”

Current RHS principal Dan Gressett spent years as a RHS assistant coach under White and said he will always have fond memories of those experiences.

“We spent about 12 years in the dugout together,” Gressett said. “A lot of long road trips, a lot of time out on the field and a lot of fun. There’s some things I don’t miss, but I do miss being around those guys. I miss getting to know the kids the way you do as a coach. Toby and I had some great times together. He’s a super guy — a great coach and a good Christian man and great parent. We won a lot of games together. I miss those days. And I’m a better man for having coached alongside of him.”

White, who played his college ball for Louisiana College, arrived in Ruston partly because his wife Jackie had attended and graduated from Louisiana Tech and partly because of his friendship with then LA Tech head baseball coach Jeff “Whitey” Richardson.  

“When I left Central Arkansas I came because of the opportunity at Tech.  (Jeff Richardson) was there as head coach, so that was a great opportunity. But my wife had graduated from Tech. And even though she’s a south Louisiana girl from Acadiana, we had loved Conway (Arkansas). It was a lot like Ruston — a great place to raise your kids. But the good Lord opened the door and led us here, and the way it all worked out for our family has been great. We’re where we were meant to be.”

As for his best memories of coaching the Bearcats, White said there are many, but that going all the way to the Class 5A quarterfinals before falling in a three-game series at Acadiana ranks right there near if not at the top.

“The two biggest moments that stick out to me both involve West Monroe,” White said. “In 2011 or ‘12 we had a walk-off playoff win against West Monroe. But the one that may stand out the most was when we were a 27 seed and they were a six seed and had already beaten us three times. We drew them in the first round of the playoffs and beat them.

“My second son, Seth, was on that Ruston team. A week and a half before the season ended we weren’t even in the playoffs, but we went on a tear and barely scratched (our way) into the playoffs. We wound up going to the quarterfinals. We upset West Monroe, upset 10th-seeded Zachary on their field. That was special. Coaching here for 15 years, there are so many great memories.”


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