Ron Polk’s baseball knowledge could easily be compared to an encyclopedia.
After more than five decades in the coaching profession, Polk has just about experienced it all when it comes to happenings on the diamond. The long-time Mississippi State coach, who also led the University of Georgia program for a pair of seasons, reflected on his years in the game as well as some sound advice for today’s young player and young person.
Polk spoke during a fundraiser event for the Winder-Barrow High School baseball program on Monday, March 9, at the Victor Lord Park complex. His experience in the coaching profession has helped him write several books, considered by fellow coaches as some of the best within the collegiate game. He is also the member of several halls of fame.
Polk has more than 1,200 career baseball wins but pointed out he has more losses than any coach in the Southeastern Conference.
“Players today have so many more distractions to deal with,” said Polk, who is referred to as the “Father of SEC baseball.”
During the 2001 season at Mississippi State, Polk said he remembers not one of his players had a cell phone.
The long-time coach, who is still involved in the sport at age 76 as a volunteer coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, confessed he still liked reading print newspapers and also talked of still using a flip phone.
His sound and simple advice to the young players in attendance was to remember, “doing the right thing is still OK.”
“It’s OK to study,” he said. “It’s OK to go to church. It’s OK to do what you are supposed to do. Your high school years will define what your character will be the rest of your life. If I say anything that helps you tonight I hope it will help you be a better player, a better person, a better son, a better brother and a better teammate.”
He encouraged young players to go by their coach’s office and talk to them and to tell them they are appreciated.
Polk, despite having coached thousands of players during his 54 years in the sport, is recognized for never forgetting a player once his career on the field is complete. The coach is known for sending handwritten notes to former players congratulating them on getting married or having a family. He still sends Christmas cards the old-fashioned way with the person’s name written on an envelope.
“I’m not sure many people know what side of an envelope you put a stamp on anymore,” he said.
Polk won five SEC titles in his coaching career. His first collegiate head coaching job in this state was at Georgia Southern from 1972-1975. He then embarked on his first of two successful stints at Mississippi State from 1976-1997.
He came out of retirement in 2000 to coach UGA in Athens for two seasons before returning to Starkville from 2002-2008. He began working as a volunteer coach at UAB in 2009, helping a former assistant coach.
WBHS baseball coach Brian Smith said it was an honor to have his mentor speak to his 2020 team and to their families and the supporters of Diamond Doggs baseball.
“This is a big deal for me personally to have Coach Polk here,” Smith said. “He has had an unbelievable impact on the sport of baseball.”