LYNCHBURG — Franklin County native and longtime Motlow College baseball coach Don Rhoton will be inducted into the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday. He’ll join current Tullahoma High School athletic director and former coach Jerry Mathis, as well as former Franklin County High School and Motlow College coach Jackie Reavis in the spot reserved for the state’s top baseball contributors.
Rhoton became Motlow’s fifth coach in 1989 and accumulated an impressive resume while putting the Bucks on a national stage until he retired in 2006.
Tullahoma High School softball coach Gary Barfield played for Rhoton at Motlow in 1990, was an assistant coach under him for two seasons and later became a peer of Rhoton’s when Barfield took over the Motlow College softball program.
“I learned a ton from him in those two years (as an assistant),” said Barfield. “One thing I learned was how to treat players. He was tough on players, but the players loved him and respected him because the players knew that Coach Rhoton always had their best interest at heart.
“And also, he taught me that when dealing with players, you always have to be brutally honest with them.”
Rhoton led Motlow to two Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association (TJCCAA) championships (1998, 2000) and a number of division titles, as well a runner-up finish in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in 2000.
Motlow finished 57-13 (.814) that season, setting a school record for victories, consecutive wins (17) and home runs (103).
He piled up an outstanding 669-268 record during his tenure at Motlow, during which he also took on the role as the school’s athletic director for 10 years.
“He should be in the Tennessee Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame too. It’s really a travesty that he’s not,” added Barfield. “I wouldn’t be where I am and I wouldn’t have accomplished what I have if I hadn’t worked under him those two years.”
Rhoton was named the state’s coach of the year three times. Sixteen of Rhoton’s Motlow players eventually made it to the professional ranks and 114 players signed with four-year institutions.
After retiring from Motlow, Rhoton coached briefly at the Webb School in Bell Buckle.
As a high school coach at Franklin County early in his career, his teams won five district championships and three region titles, while he compiled a 243-97 record between 1975 and 1986.
Rhoton was a skilled player as well. He played on Franklin County High School’s 1968 state championship team as well as Columbia State’s 1970 team that advanced to the NJCAA World Series. When he returned to the NJCAA World Series as a coach, he became the only person in the history of the event to both play and coach in the tournament.
Rhoton was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1969 and 1970, but decided to continue his education. That decision eventually led him to teaching, coaching, and now, the TBCA Hall of Fame, where he will join the likes of Todd Helton, Larry Schmitou, Steve Peterson and Rod Delmonico.
BY ROBERT HOLMAN (Robert Holman is the editor of the Moore County News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
—The Winchester Herald-Chronicle contributed to this story