AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Its the end of an era in Aiken. The final home game for USC Aiken baseball coach Kenny Thomas, who is retiring after nearly a quarter century with the pacers.
Kenny Thomas, USC Aiken Baseball Head Coach said, “I’ve always said the program is the most important thing. It’s more important than me. It’s more important than the players. The program is what it’s all about.”
But Tuesday was all about Coach Thomas at Roberto Hernandez Stadium as he hangs up the hat after twenty-two seasons at USCA.
“I understand that when it’s time it’s time and when my wife got cancer last spring I just realized during the summer she’s been by my side for forty years of baseball and it’s probably time for me to spend more time with her,” said Coach Thomas.
The great news is Coach Thomas’s wife is now cancer-free. Something he calls a miracle.
Coach Thomas said, “The community has been awesome to me and my wife. I tell people all the time the roof of my house could fly off my house tonight and I can make five or six phone calls and have 100 people in my yard in an hour. That’s this type of community.”
“Known Judy for a while too and she’s awesome. Obviously you don’t want to see somebody go through something like that but for her to come out of it is obviously awesome. But the support from Coach and all the people in Aiken, in the community is huge,” said Coach Sean Miller.
Speaking of huge, many former players, player turned coaches, family members and friends came out early to USC Aiken’s game against Georgia Southwestern for a ceremony honoring Coach Thomas. He says he’ll cherish the moment dearly and some games have stuck out over his career.
Coach Thomas said, “We were down 13 to two. It was the seventh inning and one of the assistants walked up to me, ‘hey do you want to put some of the guys in that don’t get to play very much. I said nah I don’t think we’re done yet. We came back and tied it 13-13 went 16 innings and won the game 14-13 that was a great game.
Coach T says he’s won more than 700 games and has lost at least 300 as the coach of the Pacers. In general, baseball coaches pride themselves in having twice as many wins as losses.
“Right now I’m there so I don’t think there’s enough games for me to lose to lose that twice as many as you lost,” said Coach Thomas.
Building men is a challenge, but for Coach T says that’s something he’ll never retire from.
Coach Thomas said, “God probably just didn’t call me to coach baseball. he called me to develop young men and develop young coaches. And teach young coaches to go out in the baseball world and be good coaches.”
Coach Thomas and his wife Judy are going to retire to Hilton Head. Thomas is also planning to coach summer league baseball in Tennessee later this year. Right now, friends of the Thomas’ are working on funding a scholarship in the name of the couple.