UTM mentor Cates no ‘wreck’ after forgotten anniversary

UTM mentor Cates no ‘wreck’ after forgotten anniversary
UTM mentor Cates no ‘wreck’ after forgotten anniversary

UT Martin baseball coach Bubba Cates argues with an umpire.
University of Tennessee at Martin baseball coach Bubba Cates forgot his anniversary for the first time in 11 years.
And no, his wife, Ann, wasn’t angry with the Skyhawk skipper for overlooking the significance of March 28.
It was on that date in 2000 — just after midnight — when the van Cates was driving collided with a tractor-trailer about 45 miles east of Memphis, just hours after UTM had defeated Southeastern Conference member Ole Miss.
“It was kind of a funny thing,” Cates said of his not acknowledging the date this turn through the calendar. “Every other year, I’ve looked at the schedule and seen the date and I remembered what had happened.
“I don’t know if I was too busy, but it just never occurred to me this year that March 28 had passed. Someone had to remind me of it. I think for a while, it (the accident) was what a lot of people related me to. They always told me ‘You’re a walking miracle.’ I don’t know that I hear that very much anymore.
“It could just be that we’ve had so much other good happening within the program that it has been drowned out.”
In the wreck, Cates suffered a laundry list of injuries.
Among the most serious were two collapsed lungs, multiple broken ribs, a broken sternum, a broken hip, a lacerated spleen, a separated shoulder, a fractured femur and a concussion.
Cates spent near a month at the Regional Medical Center (The Med) in Memphis and when he was released for rehabilitation in Jackson, some in the medical community doubted he would be capable of returning to his previous activity level.
Cates — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes advisor at UTM — never had any doubt.
“I think God was protecting me and the players in the wreck,” Cates said. “When people tell me they prayed for me when the wreck happened, I laugh and remind them they’re the reason I’m talking to them now.
“The prayers made a difference. At first, the doctor looked at the X-ray and told my wife that my liver was busted open. Then they opened me up to take my spleen out and the doctor claimed he’d looked at the X-ray backwards. I don’t believe that. I think the prayers sent up for me worked something supernatural.”
Though the wreck may now be a distant memory, Cates still clings to the outpouring of love he received during his time of need.
 “After the wreck, I had so many people praying for me and contacting me,” Cates said. “I’ve saved every card I got from that time and It’s amazing to see how many people reached out to me. We averaged 30 contacts a day and this was before texting and cellphones were big.”
Now 11 years later, Cates still stops occasionally to ponder why the accident took place and his path was changed. Although Cates doesn’t particularly know the reason, he does see positives from the non-fatal wreck.
At the time of the accident, many schools — UTM included — traveled to road games in passenger vans with institutions taking two or three on the road each time out.
“I’ve always known there’s a bigger plan,” the veteran Skyhawk skipper said philosophically. “Maybe another team heard about our wreck and started traveling on a bus and it saved lives somewhere else.
“That could of been part of why it happened. I don’t know to tell you the truth, but I hope to someday.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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