By Greg Ritchie
LATEXO – Latexo Independent School District (LISD) will hold a “Dinner on the Diamond” event this Friday, April 7 at 6 p.m. The dinner and cake auction will celebrate the dedication of the baseball and softball fields, honoring two Houston County legends, designating the Clifford Price Softball Field and the Bob Hutson Baseball Field.
The ceremonies will include a dinner with smothered pork chops and all the fixings with a cake auction to be held after the meal to raise funds for the signage honoring the men to be installed on the fields.
Born in 1929 in Lufkin, Hutson attended Sam Houston State University and then graduated from University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was a veteran of the United States Army serving during the Korean War. Hutson was a longtime educator and coach with a very successful high school coaching career, having a great love for baseball. In 1960, he originated the Houston Coaches Invitational Baseball Tournament, the largest baseball tournament in Texas at that time with 42 teams, directing it for 16 years. In the early 1960’s, he coached Houston Amateur Baseball for several years with one of those teams winning a national championship.
In the late 1960’s, Hutson organized Houston Sports Unlimited which conducted summer baseball clinics. In 1976, Hutson moved to Houston County where he took a position at Crockett ISD serving as athletic director/coach from 1975 to 1980. In 1980, Latexo ISD hired Coach Hutson with an agreement to build a baseball field and let him start a baseball program. From 1986 until his retirement in 1994, he was the Jr. High Athletic Coordinator and Assistant High School Baseball coach for Palestine ISD, before going on to Lovelady ISD as their baseball coach.
In 2006, Coach Hutson was inducted into the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Honor for his continued dedication and years of service to baseball. Hutson passed away in July, 2020 in Tyler.
Hutson’s daughter, Leeann Hutson Solice, now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, but will be making the trip to Latexo for Friday’s ceremony. What she remembers most about Coach Hutson was that it was never just about winning or losing.
“I know the typical stereotype of a coach is that they’re tough and they have high expectations and that’s certainly true of my dad. But he also had real sweetness and love and that was the foundation of his coaching,” Solice said. “When his athletes talk about him from years and years ago, they still talk about how he was was a role model in their life who would give them a hug, tell them he loved them, was proud of them and very joyful toward them as young people. I think he always saw his students is his own kids.”
Solice remembered many of the stories her dad told her about the kids themselves and the work Hutson was able to do with them.
“He was a very successful coach and a master of the sport but, for me, the stories he came home with from work, were rarely about those wins,” Solice remembered. “He would be just as likely to come home with a story about how he worked with special-needs kids who had limited movement. He was not a person who acknowledged stardom or celebrity. He worked with the Astros and I remember out in the barn he had a box of baseballs signed by Nolan Ryan – not a ball, but a box of them. But he would be just as thrilled about his work with the girls golf team.”
Clifford Price was born in 1945 and was a longtime educator, dedicating his life to helping children pursue their dreams and find their way in life. After graduating from Crockett High School, Price received his Master’s Degree in education from Sam Houston State University, giving up his desire to finish his Doctorate’s Degree to be able to spend time with his both the kids under his care and his own family. Price served in several area school districts, including Kennard ISD from 1968-1979 as both a teacher and principal of the elementary. Price was K-12 principal at Latexo ISD for a year before becoming the Superintendent in 1980, serving until 1995. Prince was known as an avid supporter of extra curricular activities including livestock shows and girls’ softball.
Price went on to a larger district, being one of the few superintendents hired there without a doctorate’s degree but the district was so impressed with Price’s work in Latexo, he was given the job. Price passed away in 2004.
Price’s daughter Angie Karl now lives near Victoria and will also be present in Latexo on Friday to see her father honored. She remembered the life lessons she learned from him.
“I learned how to be a better person, because my dad was one. He was such a giver, never a taker. He was always for the underdog and believed every child deserves a chance at education,” Karl said. “He was selfless, dedicated and his family was so important to him. And Daddy was a Marine and super proud that of that brotherhood.”
Karl said Price would be embarrassed by all the fuss made over honoring him, even though he was such a huge part of Latexo and Houston County education history.
“It’s very humbling they’re honoring him but if he were alive today, he would adamantly say, ‘No, I don’t want to be in the spotlight.’ I think it speaks volumes that someone nominated him and the school board and the community went forward with this. He was a very humble person from humble beginnings,” Karl said. “He would always give the glory to his team, whether it be his teaching team, his softball girls – whomever it was. He was that person.”
The men honored at the ceremony Friday night earned that recognition and their memory can now serve as reminders to us and future generations of the value of service, community and giving back for others.
As Solice herself said of Hutson, “One thing my dad always really believed in was that there is a ripple effect. You throw one pebble in the water and that would be your daily interaction with kids that you work with as an educator. And you don’t ever see all the rings of positive influence rippling through the water as you do one simple thing – including a kid on a team or starting a program for a sport that hasn’t existed and making sure everybody has a game they can play in a team they can be on. I watched him over my lifetime, throwing 1,000 little pebbles in the lake with individual children, where he just reached out to them and included them and coached them. It’s such a privilege to be able to see those ripples progress, even though he’s gone.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]