"My face was flushed," Cates said of his reaction to a phone call informing him of his selection. "I didn't know what to say, it was such a big surprise. The company that surrounds this honor is so elite. It's overwhelming to say the least."
Cates, a 28-year coaching veteran who will receive the award during the FCA Baseball Breakfast Jan. 8 at the American Baseball Coaches Convention in Nashville, Tenn., came highly recommended from FCA Northwest Tennessee director Barry Duncan.
"What separates Coach Cates apart more than anything else is his exceptional character and incomparable integrity," Duncan said.
Cates is a member of First Baptist Church in Martin.
One of the highest honors in the coaching profession, the award is named after Jerry Kindall, the former major league player and retired head coach at the University of Arizona. Kindall was the honorary first recipient of the award in 2006.
"When you think of college baseball itself, his name has to be mentioned," Cates said. "He's real approachable, but when I see him, I just stand off to the side in awe."
The FCA's Kindall award is presented annually to the college or high school baseball coach who best exemplifies the Christian principles of character, integrity, excellence, teamwork and service on and off the baseball field.
Cates' involvement in FCA began in the late 1970s as a collegiate player at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Cates learned from the legendary coach Dave "Boo" Ferriss, who was the FCA campus sponsor at Delta State. To this day, Cates credits his former coach for much of his success.
"Coach Ferriss introduced me to the FCA," Cates said. "I was so fortunate to have played for someone like that. He is such a role model -- not just in the FCA but in building relationships. He's 90 years old and I still get letters in the mail from him asking about my family. I wasn't much of a player -- I was just a guy on the team -- but he cares about all of his players. He's just a special man."
Cates' pastor, Mike Sams at First Baptist in Martin, told Baptist Press, "Like every great coach, Bubba is a competitor that wants to win.
"What sets Bubba apart, however, is that, for him, there is more to winning than what happens on the field. The greater win for Bubba is making a positive impact and an eternal difference in the lives of the young men who come through his program."
Sams described Cates as an example of Christ-like character and commitment to the things that matter most in life.
"Those who have the privilege of playing for Bubba will learn to be winners in life because they will see it modeled in Bubba's life," Sams said. "Bubba Cates is a champion for Christ."
Cates is coming off arguably his best season as head coach at UT Martin. Last season, he led the Skyhawks to 24 wins -- the most the program had tallied since 1992. UT Martin also produced a program-record six All-Ohio Valley Conference selections under Cates in 2010, a year in which the Skyhawks shattered 11 team records.
Reported by the sports information office at the University of Tennessee-Martin and by BP Sports editor Tim Ellsworth, who also is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net