MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - For 43 years, Trinity baseball coach Ken Whittle’s normal has been music playing at the ballpark while his team takes the field on game day.
But, at the end of this season, he’s decided to hang up the cleats and call it a career.
“I’ve been in it for 43 years, and I feel like it’s time,” he said. “It’s been an opportunity that I’ve loved and enjoyed and sadly I’m 67, and this is a chance to do something a little different.”
It was a decision that didn’t come lightly, but Whittle says it’s the right call.
“My wife and I sat down together, and we had an opportunity to kind of talk about it, understand it, and we felt like this was the year, that it was time,” said Whittle.
The manager’s reputation is no secret. Over the span of four decades, Whittle has led Wildcat ball clubs to six state championships and more than 750 career wins. But one stands out in the crowd.
“My first group, 1985 group,” said Whittle. “That’s the first state championship. And those guys were a lot of fun, not these other teams are not fun, but the first one was one of those – we didn’t know. We just – it happened. We expected it, but we didn’t totally understand what the ride was going to be like.”
Whittle isn’t the only one who looks back on the past with fond memories. His former players, like current Montgomery Academy head coach Stephen Vogel, have been influenced by Whittle’s storied career since the beginning.
“The impact that he had on my life was just really special, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” said Vogel. “I mean I really model myself as a coach after him because he challenged me, but he does it in the right way. He transfers the game of baseball into life with all the lessons that he teaches you.”
With the final inning now in sight, Whittle will trade his place in the dugout for a role he’s eagerly been waiting on.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what God will provide for us. What he will give us an opportunity to do. And we also have three granddaughters, so we’d like to be able to spend a little bit more time with them,” he said.
But, to say he’ll be missed on game day is an understatement.
“This game is losing somebody who is huge,” said Vogel. “We joke with him and a lot of people just throw this word around, but we call him the GOAT. All the wins, playoff appearances, state championships speak for themselves – incredible. But the reason why he’s the GOAT is because of the amount of boys that have come in this dugout and when they’ve left, they become young men. And that’s the reason coach Whittle is the GOAT.”
Whittle says it’s the relationships he’s built on and off the diamond that he’ll miss the most as he moves into this next phase of his life, but one thing is for certain: Trinity Presbyterian and Jason Armstrong Field won’t be the same next season.