Bryan Hanks: Remembering Ronnie Battle
There are people who pass through your life who hold a special place that you know once they’re gone, it’s going to be impossible to fill that space again.
Ronnie Battle holds that distinction to a lot of folks in Lenoir County. On Saturday, a lot of those same people had the chance to show their love for one of the greatest men to come through Lenoir County.
After a lot of hard work by a lot of great folks, the baseball facility at Kinston High School has been named after Battle, who won more games at the school than anyone in the history of the program. A dedication ceremony was held Saturday at the newly-minted Ronnie Battle Baseball Complex in which several hundred people came out to honor his memory.
In the hour-long ceremony — which included plenty of shared memories, laughter and even some tears — a host of speakers, which included family members, former players and KHS personnel, lauded the accomplishments of Battle.
Many in the crowd wore white T-shirts emblazoned with Battle’s name and his playing number (10) on the back.
Chris Hatcher, the greatest baseball player to ever come out of Lenoir County, graduated from Kinston in 2003 after playing for Battle for four years. He said Battle was not just a baseball coach, but a “life coach.”
“When I was young, someone told me when a quiet man speaks, it’s usually a pretty good idea to listen,” Hatcher, who played 13 years of professional baseball after a successful three-year career at UNC Wilmington, told the crowd at the event. “Coach Battle was a man of very few words. … When he spoke, I made certain to pay attention. When I think about the effect he had on me, I think more of the life lessons than the fundamentals he taught me.”
That was the general theme of Saturday’s affair — everyone knows Battle had an amazing baseball mind, was a great coach and an awesome leader of young people. But it was Battle’s intelligence and love for his community that pushed him to the next echelon of greatness in Kinston and Lenoir County.
“He lived his life as an honorable man and as a man of God,” Tommy Dixon, a former player and currently a youth mentor in Raleigh, said. “No man is perfect, but in my eyes, Coach Battle was close to it.”
The naming of the facility was spearheaded by several members of the community, including Jim and Robyn Godfrey, whose son played for Battle in the middle of the past decade.
“Most of all, I want to thank the Battle family, for sharing their husband, their dad and their grandfather, with our youth,” Jim Godfrey said. “It would be so fantastic if Coach Battle were here to see the love (everyone) has for him.”
Rhondra Fleming’s incredible rendition of “God Bless America” — which brought everyone to their feet with tears in their eyes — preceded final comments by Battle’s children, Joel Battle and Torise Battle Young. Joel Battle, now a highly-successful coach in his own right in High Point, delivered an emotional speech in which he recalled the many days and nights he spent on the KHS field with his father.
“It’s amazing to know how good of a person he was,” he said. “Today represents so much to our family. People are going to be able to come out here and see his name on the wall and know who my dad is.”
This much is certain: there’ll never be another person like Ronnie Battle. Kudos to all those who made it possible for his name to remain in the annals of Kinston High School and Lenoir County history.
Rest in peace, Coach Battle — we’ll never forget you or your message.