For the Kids: An interview with Mrs. Rita Bates

Mrs. Rita Bates takes a photo with a trio of her baseball boys a few years ago. Mrs. Rita is instrumental to the Lakeside baseball program.

By Josh Beavers

Note: This is the second in my new series of stories about people who go above and beyond to help our local schools.

This week: Mrs. Rita Bates of Lakeside baseball

Famed soccer manager Pep Guardiola has a slogan adorning one baby blue wall of his sparse Manchester office in England. It simply states, “Some are born here, some drawn here but we all call it home.”

That’s how Mrs. Rita Bates feels about being a part of the Lakeside baseball team.

“Lakeside is an extension of Sibley High,” Bates told me. “We are family! We work together for the good of the students, and I believe the goal of the adults here is to help our kids be the best they can possibly be.”

Bates attended Sibley in the 1960s and told me she found a report card from her grammar schoolteacher, Mrs. Gladys Shipp, just the other day when she was looking through keepsakes for this article. She’s been married to Jerry Bates for almost 44 years.  “We have/had two sons-Christopher Lee and Jason Neil. Chris was killed in a car wreck in 1994.  Jason has two daughters who went to school at Lakeside, Paige, and Kallie Bates,” she said. “Jason and Jessica, the girl’s mom, also worked closely with the staff at Lakeside.”

While she’s always had Sibley/Lakeside in her heart, what she’s likely best known for is her steadfast commitment to Warrior baseball.

“Jason played baseball, and when he lost interest, I did not,” she said.  “I said I would like to stay, and Coach Bob Gray was a happy coach!  It’s a team effort for the adults to run a successful baseball program, and I like to think we have been successful as an adult team.”

With baseball, she has kept the books, paid the bills, and run the concession stand since 1995.

“I do my best to support the coaches and the players,” she said.  “While being involved in baseball at both schools, I have been a church secretary, worked in medical records for about 15 years, and then went to work at Youth Challenge Program for several years after that.  There were many rewards with the students there. It’s good to see kids want to better themselves and to be able to help them achieve that goal. I’ve been retired for, goodness, probably 10 years.”

So, why do you do what you do, Mrs. Rita?

“I love working with the kids, and hopefully being a positive influence on these players,” she said. “We all need somebody to listen and encourage us, and that’s what I try to do with these guys. ‘Miss Rita’ comes to the rescue with Band-Aids, safety pins for buttons or zippers that broke, even a belt or socks occasionally (don’t tell coach!) and with food and drink!  Seriously, my goal and the reason I am still with Lakeside baseball is to make a difference in their lives, and if I accomplish that with just one player, it’s all worth it. And the kids keep me young at heart!”

I then asked her why she loves the baseball team?

“I think it all goes back to one thing – loving and supporting the kids” she said. “I love the outdoors and I love the sport, but I’m still here because of the kids.  There have been hundreds of kids to come through this program, and even today a lot of them are Facebook friends, and more than that, the guys that have come through here are now working with us as their own kids are playing for Lakeside. I still have guys who are in their 40s talking to ‘Miss Rita’ and sharing their memories of their baseball days.”

And now comes the time when she didn’t know how to proceed. I asked what her favorite memory was, and she said she couldn’t just name one. So go ahead, Mrs. Rita, let’s hear as many as you’d like to share.

Memory 1:

Years ago our first tournament of the season was in Abbeville. We made this trip for several years. This was the end of January-beginning of February.  That trip and those games were so much fun.  I’ve heard many parents, and now players who are parents, say they would love to go back.

Memory 2:

One of the last times, if not the last time, we went to Abbeville, the players and coaches stayed in a duck camp. They were all hyped up-until they saw the camp.  Coach Bob passed it by, not recognizing it for what it was supposed to be and had to go back to it.  It was a rainy weekend, the camp, which if I remember correctly, was some sort of camper, leaked INSIDE so the guys got wet. It was a memorable weekend but not one of their greatest weekends.

Memory 3:

I remember state playoffs the year Jason Mizell and I believe Will Gray graduated.  Jason missed a ball. We lost that game, but Jason came up to Coach and said, “If I had just lifted that one last weight!”

Memory 4:

We had a Chevy mini-van, and we loaded kids up and took off to games.  I told Coach Gray that I didn’t have seat belts for all of them-they were sitting in the floor and really scrunched in together.  Coach said, “If you pack them in tight enough, they won’t need one.”  Those were the days!

Memory 5:

You know how boys’ feet sweat and stink?  Well, yep, we had one with smelly feet.  The guys would be packed into that van and here he would come out of his shoes.  It would take a few minutes, but Jerry Bates would get a whiff of stinky feet. “___________, put your shoes back on.”  And __________ would say, “Yes sir, Mr. Jerry.” (We have blanks for names because I wouldn’t dare throw one of my kids under the bus. But I bet he laughs if he reads this!)

Memory 6:

Lakeside Baseball Field has not always looked like it does today, not by a long shot.  In the winter before our first season, Mr. Pete Brunson, our longest running supporter as far as I know, got busy on the concession stand. Now, Coach Gray had been told to wait a couple of years and the schoolboard would build the concession stand. But coach knew that our concession stand was an integral part of our program.  So, we built the concession stand.  I say we because I was part of that, too.  I don’t know that I did much building, but I was there to do what they needed or asked me to do.  Camaraderie was built during that time, as well as the concession stand, we have now.

Memory 7:

You notice our restrooms aren’t attached to the concession stand.  For the first 3 or 4 years, maybe longer, we didn’t have restrooms.  We had Port-a-Lets.  No, it wasn’t ideal, but it was what we had.  Nobody really likes one of those things, but let’s face it-when you got to go, it’s a good thing to have.  The booster clue paid that bill monthly during the time we had them.  We were proud to see our dressing room/restroom facilities being built.

Memory 8:

We lost one of our biggest, constant fans this month.  The mother of Coach Bob and grandmother of Coach Will left this world to meet Jesus.  “Miss Mary Lane” was at every game, except on Wednesday nights because that was church night if she was able to go.  Home games, or away games, she was there, rooting our guys on and offering encouragement to both the players and the coaches.  “Throw the wiffer” will be forever etched in my mind.

(“For the Kids” is a series of regular feature stories published in the Webster Parish Journal. If you have a recommendation of someone who needs to be recognized for their work with our local school children, please reach out to Josh Beavers either through Facebook or email at joshwbeavers@gmail.com.)

 


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