published Friday, March 14th, 2014

Retirees Dixon, Lowery directing Polk baseball team

John Dixon and Frank Lowery are AARP guys, eligible for membership in the national senior citizens group for more than a decade.

Retired educators, they answered Polk County's call when school principal Ron German was scrambling for a baseball coach to replace Michael Carter, who had accepted a similar job at Franklin County.

The two, who still help Derrick Davis with football, are former Polk basketball and baseball coaches.

"They were in a bind, and it was a real bind obviously," the 68-year-old Dixon said with a hearty laugh.

"He did it as a personal favor to me," said German, who played for Dixon. "I went through everybody in the system that would be considered a good coaching candidate. I went to him as a last resort and asked him to consider it. Both of these men had a major influence in my life, not just as a student but as an educator and a coach."

The two veterans, each with a still-vested interest in Polk County, could not in good conscience refuse their former pupil.

German called it the Polk County mystique.

"When you're the only game in town, people come out and watch, and they help any way they can. It's a pride thing," he said.

When German talked Dixon into returning, he knew what he was getting. His old coach was also a Polk County graduate. He was a three-sport letterman in his time.

"Just say I left all the records that had been set before I played intact," Dixon said with a laugh. "You know I wrote a book, don't you? The title summarizes my playing days: 'I could've been a star if I'd had some talent.' We're wearing the EMTs out up here. They don't know if we'll make it through a game or not."

This year's Polk County team is finding, though, that Dixon knows his stuff. The Wildcats would hardly be surprised to know that he coached state final-four teams at Polk in 1978, 1979 and 1986.

A young group led by seniors Carter Flowers and Matt Hammons has met Dixon and Lowery halfway.

"Things have changed a little with kids over the last 25 years. You have to treat them with kid gloves," Dixon said. "I don't know any more baseball or as much as some baseball people, but it's hitting the ball, fielding the ball and throwing the ball. I believe in getting kids mentally tough and ready to play."

The major changes he notices are peripheral to actually playing the game.

"Back when I was coaching years ago, field preparation was bush-hogging the outfield every couple of weeks and dragging the infield with a cross-tie," he said. "And when the season started our bat bag would have five or six $8 bats and we'd nail or tape them back together. The other day I bought two aluminum bats at $300 apiece."

German wrangled a one-year commitment from each. Dixon has a 12-year-old son (Barton), and Lowery has a grandson with whom they enjoy spending time.

"This is one and done," Dixon said of the single-season caretaker duties. "They have assured us they'll do due diligence to get a person that will be a baseball person and good for the program."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at twitter.com/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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