MONTGOMERY – Fast-pitch or slow-pitch, no one has loved the sport of softball more than Baker High School’s veteran coach Anthony “Tony” Scarbrough.
His passion for the sport has made a tremendous difference for the student-athletes who play the game today in the AHSAA.
Scarbrough is one of 12 individuals in the Class of 2017 being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame banquet will be Monday, March 20, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
Scarbrough graduated from Prichard’s Vigor High School in 1967 and the University of South Alabama in 1972.
He began his teaching and coaching career at Chickasaw Academy in 1970. He then taught at Evangel Christian and McLean County High School in Kentucky. At Evangel, he coached his first slow-pitch softball team, compiling 10-5 record.
Those 10 wins are the only ones not earned at Baker High School where his overall record was an outstanding 1,525 wins and just 438 losses heading into the 2017 AHSAA season.
After teaching at several others schools – Shaw High School, Belsaw Middle School, Gautier Junior High School and Alba High School – he accepted a position at Baker in 1986. He has been there ever since.
For 12 years he produced some of the state’s best slow-pitch softball teams, compiling a record of 563-171. His Honeybees were second in the start in 1989, then won three consecutive state championships from 1991-93. Baker also won nine area championships during that span.
He was instrumental in persuading the AHSAA to switch from slow-pitch to fast-pitch softball in the 1990s. He quickly showed that the speed of the ball was irrelevant to his coaching skills. Over the past 17 years, he has produced the following marks at Baker:
--A fast pitch softball record of 937-267.
--State championships in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2016. The most recent title was the first one awarded in the new Class 7A classification.
--In one 16-year stretch, Baker has won 15 area championships and made 13 state tournament appearances.
--Baker holds the top four positions for the most wins in a season – 79 in 2007, 78 in 2005, 77 in 2004, and 69 in 2006.
Baker athletic director Paul Agnew is amazed at Scarbrough’s foresight, enthusiasm and energy.
“Coach Scarbrough is one of the most progressive, enthusiastic and compassionate coaches I have ever seen,” Agnew said. “He is everything that is right with high school athletics. His career record speaks for itself, but it is his impact on his athletes, his colleagues and his sport that makes him most deserving of this honor.
“Personally, I have learned the characteristic of positive coaching by watching Coach Scarbrough from the sidelines and by listening to the hidden wisdom in his numerous stories from his 40-plus-year coaching career. His passion for coaching is unmatched, his love for his girls is unwavering, and his commitment to the sport of softball is unsurpassed. The exuberance in the picture of Coach Scarbrough’s team winning the first 7A softball state championship is an indelible image for me. And, amazingly, this same exuberance is on display at each practice, each team meeting, each game and each tournament. He celebrates the fundamentally sound play by his JV shortstop with the same giddiness that he does the amazing diving catch to capture the state championship. He is nothing more than pure joy.”
Principal Clem Richardson agrees.
“Tony has coached other sports, but his passion for female athletics, particularly softball, has won him local, state and national awards. He was well ahead of his time with incorporating increased reps into his practices and games,” said Richardson. “He always prefers to be the visitor in competition so he can be assured that his team gets to bat in the 7th inning.
“Being a math teacher, he is obsessed with statistics and tendencies. This is very evident in his coaching style. Softball players that leave Baker take with them his passion, desire for success and work ethic. His players truly love and respect him both on the field and off.”
Mobile sports writer Ben Thomas also noticed Scarbrough’s love of numbers.
“I believe coaching on this level – more than any other – is about building teenagers into responsible adults,” Thomas said. “I believe coaching is not only about winning but, in fact, primarily about instilling discipline and responsibility into young people, in many cases making a positive impact on them that will last a life time.
“That is what I believe Tony Scarbrough has done at Baker High School for more years than I have been a member of the working world. I have talked to many of his players who speak glowingly of him well after their Baker athletic careers were over. This is a coach that cares so much about his players that he always has kept his own statistics – whether it was on the bench in basketball or in the third base coaching box in softball – every game. Now, that is caring!”
Scarbrough’s passion for softball includes sharing his knowledge with other coaches, even if they are competitors. Mary G. Montgomery High School softball coach Brenda Box shared her experience.
“Not only did I play against him while in high school, but also I have had the privilege to coach against him the last 13 years,” she said. “Coach Scarborough was a wonderful mentor to me, a new coach. He helped me learn the ins and outs of the coaching world. I always knew if I had a question, I could call anytime.”
As a member of the AHSAA Softball Coaches Committee, Scarbrough played a key role in developing the popular regional state softball playoff format used by the AHSAA.
He was inducted into the Mobile Softball Hall of Fame in 1992. He also founded the Mobile Youth Umpires Association and served as a director for seven years. He also started Junior Girls Basketball in Mobile.