With over 40 years of baseball involvement on the Peninsula, Apprentice School Assistant Baseball Coach Buddy Denton has seen more than his share of memorable moments on the diamond. But this past Saturday may have topped them all.
Kecoughtan High School, where he coached from 1969-1996, held a ceremony to rename its baseball field Buddy Denton Field in honor of one of the legendary names not only in high school baseball on the Peninsula, but area baseball in general.
"They made such an attempt to keep it a secret, but slowly it came out about the honor," said Denton. "People came up to me in restaurants congratulating me, but I had no idea for what. Once I was informed of it, I had a few sleepless nights thinking about it. But for all that, the day couldn't have been more perfect - it was everything I had imagined."
Denton started with the Builders in 2000 and has served with head coach Bryan Cave as a pitching coach and hitting coach. The friendship between those two dates back to 1972 when Cave started playing for the Kecoughtan Warriors under Denton who was then a third-year head coach. Denton's demeanor and coaching style made an influence on Cave.
"You normally would take the coaching styles of those you have played for and maybe tweak things to incorporate into your coaching philosophy," said Cave. "With Coach there were a lot of things that I liked back then and still use to this day."
Denton and Cave coached together for two summers, 1979 and 1980, on a Babe Ruth State Championship team. Now Denton enjoys his last coaching run with Cave at The Apprentice School where he has been an integral part of over 350 wins since joining him in 2000.
"It's been just a dream and I am thoroughly enjoying it all working," he said. "It's a great way to end my coaching career coaching with ones that you love and enjoy working with a great group of players every day."
Denton started teaching at Kecoughtan in 1969 and amassed a high school record of 365-168 in 27 seasons. His teams won 12 Peninsula District championships, four Eastern Region titles and made five appearances in the Virginia Group AAA State Championships.
One of his former standouts, Brett Wheeler, not only serves as the current Kecoughtan High School but also played for him from 1990-93. Wheeler had nothing but praise for the man who he calls a "father figure, coach and mentor throughout my life."
"I owe everything I have accomplished on the baseball field and in the coaching profession to Coach Denton," he said. "He is the reason that I wanted to be a teacher/coach, and I hope I can be half the teacher/coach he has been."
Also joining Wheeler in speaking at the ceremony was Kecoughtan Athletic Director Lee Martin and representing City of Hampton Mayor Molly Ward was Clerk of the Council Katherine Glass. She read a proclamation from the mayor that declared April 13, 2013 as William A. (Buddy) Denton Day in the City of Hampton.
Denton was humbled by the festivities on Saturday and thanked the couple hundred in attendance in his own special way. "This has been a really exciting day to enjoy this with my family, my Kecoughtan and Apprentice School family, but the most exciting thing for me is to look at this sign and it doesn't say In Memory Of," he said which brought a loud roar of approval from the crowd.
By Jim Heath - Sports Information Director