Dusty Rhodes

winter16A homophone is a word or phrase that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning. The greatest example of that in baseball is Dusty Rhodes, who has seen more than his fair share of ‘sandy streets’ through the years. This year’s recipient of the ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award recalls his years in coaching, which first started at alma mater Florida Southern in 1969 and would eventually move on to Palm Beach Junior College in 1974, earning his first head coaching gig a year later.

“I played at Palm Beach Junior College and I was on the first team and we weren’t very good,” Rhodes said. “I came back and we still weren’t very good. I took over in 1975 and had to work my tail off, I did everything I could do there. In 1979 we had a pretty good team, and at that time you could play four year schools in Florida, there was no limit on games. We played Miami, I brought Florida and Florida State into the West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium to raise some money. Dick Howser was the head coach at Florida State and we ended up beating them in a doubleheader, and they had a great team. It had been a lot of work, but I thought, ‘we might have something here.’”

“One of the best things that ever happened to me was when I was at Palm Beach Junior College,” Rhodes recalls. “There was an American Legion team there coached by Bob Shaw, who wrote the book on pitching. He called me up and said ‘I know you’re a college head coach, but if you want to get better you’ll come be an assistant on my American Legion team.’ And I thought that was the greatest compliment in the world. We finished third in the country that year, and I can never repay Coach Shaw for what I learned that summer and how it impacted the rest of my career.”

Rhodes would eventually move on to the University of North Florida, where he accumulated a record of 827-363 from 1988-2010 and won a collection of awards: Florida Sports Amateur Coach of the Year, two-time Diamond Sports Co. Area Coach of the Year, three-time NAIA Area V Coach of the Year, three-time NCAA Division II Southeast Region Coach of the Year, four-time NAIA District 25 Coach of the Year, four-time Florida Diamond Club NAIA Coach of the Year, five-time Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year.

Rhodes led the Ospreys deep into the postseason at multiple levels: the NAIA World Series (1989 and 1991) and the Division II National Championship Tournament 2000, 2001, 2005. In all, Rhodes’ UNF teams advanced to 16 postseason tournaments. He credits the ABCA and his assistant coaches for helping him learn and develop along the way.

“When I was a head coach, I wanted my assistants to do their jobs and be very open with what they said to me and about the team. That’s how you succeed. Read the rest