UTM’s Cates honored for character in coaching
Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011 12:02 am
One of the highest honors in the baseball coaching profession, the award is named after Jerry Kindall, the former major league player and retired head coach at the University of Arizona. Kindall was the honorary first recipient of the award in 2006.
To be mentioned in the same breath as Kindall is a humbling thing for Cates, the UT Martin skipper for the past 12 years. “When you think of college baseball itself, his name (Kindall) has to be mentioned,” Cates said. “He’s real approachable but when I see him I just stand off to the side in awe.”
Cates’ involvement in the FCA began in the late 1970’s as a collegiate player at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Cates credits his Delta State head coach, the legendary Dave “Boo” Ferriss, for a lot of his success. Ferris also was the FCA campus sponsor at Delta State.
“Coach Ferriss introduced me to the FCA,” Cates said. “I was so fortunate to have played for someone like that. He is such a role model — not just in the FCA but in building relationships. He’s 90 years old and I still get letters in the mail from him asking about my family. I wasn’t much of a player — I was just a guy on the team — but he cares about all of his players. He’s just a special man.”
Cates, the 28-year coaching veteran, came highly recommended for the Kindall Award by Barry Duncan, the director of FCA Northwest Tennessee.
“What separates Coach Cates apart more than anything else is his exceptional character and incomparable integrity,” Duncan said.
Cates is coming off arguably his best season as head coach at UT Martin. In 2010, he willed the Skyhawks to 24 wins — the most the program has tallied since 1992. UT Martin also produced a program-record six All-Ohio Valley Conference selections under Cates in 2010, a year in which the Skyhawks shattered 11 team records.
UT Martin director of athletics Phil Dane also played a major role in Cates’ nomination for the Kindall Award.
“Coach Cates’ commitment to the principles of FCA is character-based, not for show,” Dane said.
The FCA began in 1954 and is the largest Christian sports ministry in the world. The organization focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ. The Character in Coaching Award is presented annually to the college or high school baseball coach who best exemplifies the Christian principles of character, integrity, excellence, teamwork and service on and off the baseball field.