After graduating from Linden-Kildare in the spring of 1977, Scott Lee set out with intentions of majoring in computer science when he went off to college at Texas A&M.
It didn’t take Lee very long to realize coaching was in his blood and a baseball coach was born.
”That’s where my heart was,” said Lee, who after a spectacular 23-year coaching career at Carthage High School, is being inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame next weekend in Waco.
”I was kind of in a state of shock,” Lee said upon learning of his induction. “I had a pretty good career here, but I haven’t coached in like 13 years and really never saw myself on that level. It’s gonna have to sink in.”
Lee’s sincere modesty belies the accomplishments he made in a near quarter century Carthage.
Long before the Carthage Bulldogs started lifting state football championships, Lee led the school’s baseball team to state titles in 1990 and 2005. His also had teams in 1994 and 2001 reach the state tournament in Austin.
”A lot of people think if you got talent you’re just going to magically win. You’re going to win, but once you get to the playoffs, it’s all about how far you can go,” said Tim Harkrider, who was starting shortstop on Lee’s first state champion squad in 1990.
Harkrider, now superintendent at Willis ISD, said Lee was a player’s coach and had a competitive drive to be the best.
”He built on his success and when you do that the pressure’s on to duplicate every year. And that’s a lot easier said than done. When we won the whole thing in 1990, you got a bullseye on your back forever. Scott continued to win year in and year out, knowing you’re gonna get everybody’s best game,” said the former Texas Longhorn and Anaheim Angel.
Lee was remarkably consistent throughout his tenure at Carthage. He built a program cemented on hard work and it was the envy of East Texas. His 511 wins and two state crowns tell only part of the story. Lee impacted many lives along the road to Waco.
”He was more than just a coach. Scott was like a father figure and cared a lot more about his players than just winning ballgames,” said Rusty Robinett, who played second base for Lee from 1986 through 1988.
”As a player you could tell the respect other coaches and teams had for him. You have a lot of people that coach really good players and never go very far. But when you have a good coach, who coaches good players, that’s when you wind up in the playoffs and in state tournaments and state championships.”
Robinett, now a high school principal at Spring Hill, was clearly taken aback when he learned Lee wasn’t already in the hall of fame.
”It’s about time. I’m surprised it took so long for him to be inducted. He should have been in a long time ago.”
Charles Foshee, who played centerfield for Lee from 1992 through 1994, said discipline was a benchmark of Lee and it filtered down throughout the whole team.
”He ran very organized practices and everything was built on discipline. His expectations were of us going out and having a winning mindset. He was very stern and demanding. But we had some good times,” said Foshee, who after head coaching stints at White Oak and Kilgore, is back working as an assistant at White Oak.
Robinett, who was head baseball coach at Spring Hill before he got into administration, echoed Foshee’s thoughts on Lee’s practice plans and the impact they made on him.
”His practices were very systematic and you knew pretty much what you were going to be doing. We went through situations methodically and covered different routines. I took that into my coaching and tried to do the same thing.”
Lee was quite reflective on his time as Carthage head baseball coach.
”I came to the perfect place. When I signed my contract, I wasn’t even going to be a baseball coach. I was going to coach 9th grade football and basketball. Jacke Davis, the head coach at the time, got the Panola College job and I was able to coach JV baseball for two years,” said Lee, who in 1984 became head coach at the tender age of 24.
”I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I didn’t really have a bar set in my mind, but I knew I wanted to win. I wanted for us to be the best we could be.”
Lee accomplished his mission in spades over the next 23 years. He only had one losing season, that being his first. He guided 19 of the 23 teams he coached to the playoffs.
”At the time I started baseball wasn’t real big in East Texas. Some coaches got the short straw and had to coach it,” Lee recalled. “I was fortunate to work for a man like Sleepy Reynolds. He gave me everything I needed and let me hire assistant coaches that knew baseball.”
In his tenure, Carthage won 20 or more games 14 times and topped 27 wins or more seven times. No less than 68 of his players signed college scholarships and 16 wound up being drafted in the Major League amateur draft.
After Lee retired from coaching in 2006, he headed up school transportation department for nine years. Ironically, Lee, now 59, returned to Carthage this year and plans on coaching the golf team in the spring.
”I enjoyed the games and miss the camaraderie with the other coaches. I’m proud we won and I think we did it the right way. Our kids acted right. It meant more to me to get a complement on our kids’ conduct than anything else. That’s more important than winning. After all, it’s about the kids,” Lee said.