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Tate takes Diamond Dawg reins
New BHS baseball head coach points to Buckner, World Series championship manager Tony La Russa as positive influences

Impressed with the people skills he noticed as a Knoxville Sox batboy from who would become a two-time World Series winning manager, Jack Tate said he’s been influenced by Tony La Russa.

“I think in my seven years as batboy [1974-81 with the Sox Minor League club] I saw a lot of great managers and how they managed the game,” said Tate, newly named Bearden High School baseball head coach, about managers and coaches who influenced him before his 27 years as a BHS assistant coach.

“Tony La Russa, the biggest thing about him was how he dealt with players on a person-to-person basis,” Tate added about the manager of the 1989 World Champion Oakland A’s and 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

“The whole time he was here in ’78, I never saw one player say a negative word about him at any time. His demeanor always rubbed off on me, I believe. How you deal with players and treat people with respect.”

Tate, a 1978 BHS graduate whose assistant coaching talents landed him into the East Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in August 2005, labeled his promotion “pretty exciting.”

And he points to another major coaching influence leading to his first-ever varsity high school head coaching job.

About seeking advice from established varsity head coaches, Tate said, “Coach [Matt] Buckner will be the main person I go to because he’s one of my best friends.”

Buckner, BHS head coach from 2004 until stepping down after leading the Bulldogs to its first ever state tourney in ’09, is now head coach at rival Farragut. “He’s a great coach, and he knows all the things that it takes to be a successful head coach.

“I’ve learned a lot from coach Buckner and coach [Mitch] Carter [former BHS head coach].”

Now that Buckner’s the archrival coach in Admirals navy blue, Tate said, “It’ll be tough competing against coach Buckner ... It’ll be a little funny feeling competing against each other.”

Buckner said it will be “extremely strange” facing a close friend who is now an archrival coach. “But the kids make the rivalry.”

Tate, 48, a teacher 23 years — 15 at BHS — labeled his coaching style as “pretty low key. My [junior varsity championship] teams have always had good discipline, and they play hard every game.

“As far as coaching philosophy, I’m pretty conservative, we do a lot of bunting, hit-and-run,” he added.

“I’ve got a lot to learn, but the good thing is I’m going to have a lot of help from the players and parents and school.”

Buckner returned the compliments. “First of all, Jack’s probably as good a person as you’ll ever meet in your entire life. He’s cherished by most people that have ever been around him.”

Also, “I would say he’s probably taught me more than I’ve taught him,” Buckner added. “A lot about being a good human being. He’s super organized. He’s a terrific game manager. He’s very well respected by the players. They really love playing for him.”

Scott Witt, BHS athletics director/assistant principal, was among an eight-person selection committee also comprising principal Dr. John Bartlett, parents and faculty.

“Overwhelmingly, after the interviews were over, everybody in the room was like, ‘This is Jack Tate’s time,’” Witt said. “He’s put in the hard work, he’s put in the time. We all felt like he deserved this opportunity.”

Bartlett and Witt officially agreed upon Tate Friday, July 24, Witt said, adding Knox County Human Resources signed off on Tate’s promotion Monday, July 27.

“What I love about Jack Tate is, one thing, his expertise,” Witt said about Tate’s thorough knowledge of baseball and its rule books. “Dependable, honest, hard working, easy to work with.

“I do not have to worry about Jack Tate ... Jack is solid. He is the man that I would like to be.”

Rising junior Ty Greene, BHS starting left fielder on last year’s TSSAA Class AAA state tournament team, said Tate “is a great baseball coach. He’s won three straight [junior varsity] championships and he knows what to do in every situation.

“And he’s great with the kids and everybody loves him.”

Among about six other applicants, BHS also interviewed McMinn Central head coach Travis Hart and Karns head coach John Rice, Witt said.

La Russa, by the way, didn’t forget about Tate upon first becoming a Major League manager with the Chicago White Sox almost three decades ago.

“I went up to Chicago, I guess it was 1980 ... and I got to be batboy for the White Sox for a whole week because Tony La Russa was the manager,” Tate said. “I went into La Russa’s office and watched game film. He was just as nice as he could possibly be.”

Having written a letter to the White Sox equipment manager, who told La Russa that Tate and a friend were coming to Chicago, “[La Russa] said, ‘bring ’em right on in,’” Tate said. “It was only two years later, so he remembered me.

“But he was as nice as he could be. I made myself at home in his office. ... He was just a perfect gentleman like he always was.”

Witt emphasized there were no hard feelings toward Buckner about leaving to take the job at archrival Farragut.

“The kids might feel differently, and it’s probably going to fuel the rivalry a little bit, but Matt made a decision that was right for his family. We don’t bear him any ill will. We think very highly of Matt.”


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