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Punt patriarch, Ads’ ex-skipper to enter Hall
Heatherly, state champion baseball coach, recalls career highlights with Farragut


In keeping with his reputation, John Heatherly was humble about being selected to the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.

But by 1993, this highly regarded Farragut High School baseball skipper said he needed to shift priorities alongside wife, Nancy.

“During those years I spent a lot of time away from home. And I remember one morning I got up early and sat down in my living room, and I looked up and saw pictures of my two children when they were babies,” Heatherly said of son, John III, and daughter, Cindy, “I said, ‘daggoned, I don't remember that.’ “I got to thinking, ‘Maybe I need to spend a little more time with them.’”

Thus began plans to end a 14-year FHS head coaching run (1980-93) that featured one Class AAA state championship (1982), one state runner-up finish (1988), eight district titles and 232 wins.


“We had a great bunch of community support, wonderful young men to work with and I was just lucky to be there and be a part of that,” Heatherly said. “Therefore, any achievements I made in regard to being named to the Hall of Fame has to do with the whole community.”

To be inducted tonight, Thursday, July 9, at the 28th annual ceremony in Knoxville Convention Center (7:30 p.m.), “I'm definitely honored,” Heatherly said. “I found myself in the right place at the right time.”

Heatherly, inducted into Tennessee Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998, was named Class AAA state “Coach of the Year” in 1982 and was an eight-time district “Coach of the Year.”

Farragut’s baseball field, “John Heatherly Field,” was dedicated in his honor in 2002.

Walter “Bud” Bales, baseball head coach at Central High School for 27 years who is a fellow Knox Hall of Fame honoree and friend of Heatherly, said the ex-FHS skipper is a “fine, outstanding individual. A lot of character. Always genuine in what he had to say and do. A quality person as a whole.”

As a coach, “He works hard at his job,” Bales said. “He dealt with his players in a professional manner. I think they knew pretty much where he stood and what he stood for and what he expected of them. He had the respect of his players, mainly, and he showed them the same respect.

“Probably should have been recognized a few years earlier,” Bales added. “He's very deserving. Recognizing John as a member of the Hall of Fame is definitely a plus for the Hall of Fame and coach Heatherly, too.”

A 1967 graduate of Central High School where he was a standout football offensive lineman and baseball catcher, then recruited to play both football and baseball at Middle Tennessee State University (1971 graduate), Heatherly said, “I went into the military for a couple of years.” His U.S. Army Reserves experience spanned 12 years as a Medical Services Corps officer.

Then came the critical choice in 1973. “I could go back to M-T-S-U as a graduate assistant, or I had the opportunity to go to Farragut.” said Heatherly, calling his decision for FHS “fortunate.”

He arrived in the fall of 1973 and served as Admirals baseball assistant coach from 1974-79.

Elevated to head coach during the 1979-80 school year, Heatherly said he and then assistant coach Harold “Herky” Payne worked well together.

As for coaching style, “At times I guess I was stern, but at times I was easy-going,” Heatherly said. “I guess you could characterize me as a disciplinarian on our team.”

Having Payne alongside for all 14 of his head coaching years, Heatherly said, “Any time we might have gotten serious about something, after it was over Herky always had some kind of levity to lighten the moment.”

Heatherly described his 1982 Class AAA state championship team as “overachievers” who thrived on “character and mental toughness and work ethic.”

“There were several teams in the Knoxville area that could have been state champions,” he added.

Admirals staff ace Jeff Glover was a power pitcher, Heatherly said, who ended his Farragut career with an earned run average under one allowed per nine innings. “A very dominating high school pitcher.”

Relief pitcher Mike Jordan, nicknamed “brickman" according to the coach because the ball came off the bat like a brick, was known for “spotting the ball, he could keep in down.”

Heatherly, 60, said standout shortstop Bobby Gaylor converted his last 52 post-season defensive chances without error and was “probably the best shortstop I've seen around Knoxville in a while.”

After edging Clinton in the region semi-finals, the Admirals beat archrival Bearden and Bulldogs’ standout “hard-throwing” right-handed pitcher Mark Snyder in the region finals.

Heatherly recalled a critical home run from FHS third baseman Craig Schnupp, “a little bitty guy,” whose long ball “sorta took the sting” out of the ’Dawgs and made his team feel it “could compete” against Snyder and Bearden. Farragut won 8-3.

Playing Morristown East in the state quarterfinals on the road, Farragut first baseman Billy Clements smacked a key home run “that gave us the momentum” to help fuel an 8-6 FHS win.

In the state semifinals, Farragut took out undefeated Baylor 3-0 behind the combined pitching of Glover and Jordan.

The Admirals beat Memphis Christian Brothers in a best-of-three series 2-1 at The University of Tennessee's facility now known as Lindsey Nelson Stadium. In the rubber game, Farragut southpaw pitcher Greg Schwartz “sorta stymied” Christian Brothers bats with off-speed offerings “and kept us in the game.”

With relief help for “Brickman,” the Admirals won 4-3 to claim the program’s first-ever state title.

Continuing to teach at FHS until retiring in 2001, Heatherly taught health, physical education, “and the last four or five years of my career I was a drivers’ ed teacher.”

 

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