Joey Hale met the greatest coach he has ever known as a young child.
And he did not even need to leave his house.
Hale's father, Jerry, is a Goodlettsville, Tenn., coaching legend who has led its youth teams to remarkable heights. Everything Joey has learned his dad taught him.
Joey, literally, was born to coach.
And the greatest compliment one could give Jerry is telling him his son is just like him.
"I'm just a clone of him," Joey said. "Everything I do is pretty much what he did."
That includes winning. Jerry led Goodlettsville to four Dixie Youth World Series championships in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Now Joey is trying to help Goodlettsville capture a Little League Baseball World Series championship, managing the Southeast Region champions.
Right beside Joey in the dugout is Jerry. To say this has been a special moment for father and son would be an understatement.
"He was more happy for me than him when we won (the Southeast championship)," Joey said. "It's a thrill to share this with him. You only have your parents for so long so you have to cherish the moment."
Joey first played for his father, as did countless others who now are Goodlettsville Little League coaches. They learned from the best coach in Goodlettsville history and now those coaches form the foundation for a dynamic league.
Goodlettsville Little League has existed for only two years and it already is competing at the Little League World Series. It already is winning state championships at every level. It already is establishing itself as a dynasty just as it had when associated with Dixie Youth Baseball.
Jerry's finger prints are all over that success and so are Joey's. Joey followed in his father's footsteps, taking his place as manager in Dixie Youth and leading Goodlettsville back to regionals, finishing second in 2009. Under the Hales, Goodlettsville was so dominant - winning district and state championships nearly ever year - that state opponents basically threw up their collective hands and tried forcing them out.
Goodlettsville wanted better competition anyway and, two years ago, joined Little League. And with the Hales coaching together again, nothing has changed. It still is Tennessee's premier team and league.
"Jerry Hale is in an elite group himself, winning four Dixie Youth World Series, which nobody else has done, and the job he and Joey have done is incredible," Goodlettsville Little League President John Robertson said. "After we beat Warner Robins (in the Southeast final) I told them how proud I am of both of them and what a remarkable job they have done with the kids through the years."
Jerry has been coaching most of his adult life. He always coached the Dixie Youth 11- and 12-year-olds so Joey had to work his way up before playing for his father. After Joey played for him, Jerry continued coaching at that level before Jerry took over 13 years ago and continued building on Goodlettsville's stellar tradition.
A man with a great baseball mind, Jerry made sure his players were fundamentally-sound and could handle any situation. But there's more to being a great coach than drills and hammering home the basics. To excel with young kids one needs to be an outstanding communicator, motivator and role model.
Jerry is all that rolled into one terrific package.
"Jerry is such a smart man. He's been around baseball for around 50 years and coached at all levels and his experience and going to the Series and winning all these tournaments, you can't get much better than having the knowledge that man has," Goodlettsville Little League Vice President Mike Kelly said. "To pass that passion onto these kids is special. That man has other things in his life he could be doing but they both dedicate their time to teaching our kids and community the right way to play the game."
Joey studied his father for years, so he was ready to flourish when he became manager. Everything his father taught him, Joey put into practice. He built a team as well-rounded as any in the Southeast Region and made sure the game always was fun.
As much as they have excelled as coaches, both Jerry and Joey always have remembered this still is just a game. But what a game they have taught their kids to play.
"It's such a treat having those two coaching our kids," Robertson said. "Jerry sits back and lets Joey get his moment. Jerry didn't step in and take the limelight. Joey's mom was saying the other night how proud Jerry is of Joey and what he has accomplished."
As much as anything, the most important lesson Jerry might have taught Joey is the value of hard work. He always is quick to credit the players most, but Joey puts this Goodlettsville team in the best position to win by tirelessly doing his homework.
During a break in the Tennessee state tournament, Joey traveled to North Carolina so he could scout a potential Southeast opponent. A few nights later he did the same thing, driving 360 miles to Warner Robins, Ga. He almost always has detailed scouting reports on every opponent, getting them at the Series by studying the regional games that were televised.
Whatever it takes to help his team win, Joey will do it just as his father did for so long.
"I'm just blessed to be coaching these kids," Joey said. "After the (Southeast) championship, he came up to me and said, 'I wanted this for you because I look at regionals like the World Series and I had two attempts to break through.' He was so happy that I finally broke through."
Joey has learned well. Like his father did for many years, Joey is not coaching any of his children, all who have graduated from high school. Then again, like his dad, he views all his players as his kids.
The Hales have become Goodlettsville's First Family of coaching. Now this dynamic duo has the ultimate story to share forever.
"What they have done is amazing," Kelly said. "And to do this and spend your summer coaching baseball and achieving what they have, it just doesn't get much better than that."