Tip of the Cap: A tribute to Al Berry & Steve Williams

By: Tim Wallace-May 1, 2008

Baseball is a great game. I am sure that everyone who reads DP would agree with that statement and could (and would) argue that position. We know the history of baseball. We know the players, managers, heroes, goats. We can recite the statistics and recount the details of the games. We’ve cheered when the game was played at its’ best and we’ve joined the boo-birds when the game got the best of the players. We can appreciate the beauty and difficulty of baseball because most of us have played the game, whether in a pickup game in the neighborhood or in some organized league. Baseball is special to all of us.

This is a tough time of year for many readers of DP. There will only be one team at each level  celebrating  once the last out has been recorded. Shortly after the champions are crowned, even the winners will realize the sadness that accompanies season’s end. I’ve already watched the tears of those who came up short this year, those of the players whose careers are over and also those of parents who won’t see their sons play anymore. As exciting as the game can be, I am not sure that anything can prepare us for the pain that comes with one’s last game, no matter the level attained.

The end of the season is also especially difficult for one other small group of people involved with the game, the coaches. While the game belongs to the players, I would suggest that no one is more committed or loves the game more than the coaches. The amount of time and energy that they invest, for a very insignificant salary supplement, would overwhelm most people. The effort that they put forth comes because of two things, their love of the game and, more importantly, their love of their players. Many will put on a tough exterior but when all is said and done, their care and concern is evident. Most realize the impact that they have on their athletes and embrace their role as mentor.

Many of us know the kind of impact that a good coach can have on us. I was fortunate to have great coaches as I worked my way through High school and Legion ball in Lancaster, SC. John Daurity came to town in my  Freshman  year and proceeded to have more impact on my life than anyone that I have ever met. He was, and is, a wise man who is still loves and enjoys teaching the game and influencing lives at Socastee High School. Not only did Coach Daurity know the game, he knew people.

williamssteve1.jpgHe brought along-side two local young men who would prove to be great assistants for him and, in the long run, great head coaches in their own right. Al Berry and Steve Williams (left) entered the coaching ranks during my Sophmore year of high school. Thirty years later, both of these gentlemen are retiring from the High School ranks and I don’t know that any tribute can adequately convey the feelings I have for these men.

During their years together they coached some of the best teams that ever donned a uniform in SC. I’ve heard many discussions that ended with the agreement that the 1991 LHS team may have been the best seen by this generation.  Though their personalities seemed to indicate major differences in thought, the blended "good cop-bad cop" coaching style that they had proved to be very effective in bringing out the best in their players.  

Once Coach Berry made the move to Dutch Fork, Coach Williams took over the reins at Lancaster. Individually they both continued to do a great job and have done so for a long time. It takes a special man to coach as long as both of these gentlemen have and still be successful. As we age as coaches, it gets tougher and tougher to relate to the young men we work with. Both Coach Williams and Coach Berry have been able to do so.

As a coach now, I would like to say "Thank you" for your commitment, both to the game and to the kids. You both are tremendous representatives and models of how things can be done in this profession. As a former player, I would like to say that the lessons I learned on the field from both of you have proven to be invaluable. I believe however, that you might be shocked to know that the thing I remember most fondly, and think of most often regarding both of you, is the fishing trips we used to take during Legion season. Though I knew you both loved the game, it was there that I saw your concern for me as a person. For that, I cannot thank you enough.

Now that both of your high school coaching careers have come to an end, I just wanted you to know that your efforts over the years weren’t unappreciated nor will they be forgotten. Many others would probably say similar things if given the opportunity.  I wish I were a better writer so that I could convey what I feel for you guys in my own words but since I’m not  I’ll look to baseball for the right terms.  For what you’ve accomplished as coaches and, more importantly, for the kind of men you are – I tip my cap to you.

DP Note: Steve Williams now moves on to be the pitching coach at USC Lancaster and will serve in the same capacity for the South Carolina Diamond Devils 18u AAU team. Al Berry will remain a teacher and football coach at Dutch Fork.