Longtime coach a Lufkin landmark

Seven years ago, Bud Maddux opened the first Lufkin, Texas, indoor baseball facility. It is a popular baseball attraction, featuring batting cages, fields and clinics.

Now he has helped create another Lufkin landmark.

The longtime coach and mentor has led Lufkin to its first Little League World Series berth. It is the latest and maybe greatest achievement in a storied coaching journey that began 41 years ago.

“I loved playing baseball and I love coaching it. I’ve spent summers forever doing it,” Maddux said. “I don’t know how many more years I have left but it’s been great. It’s been fun. It’s something that is really enjoyable for me.”

Maddux started coaching in 1976 and the 68-year-old has shined at various levels. Whether it be the older divisions, high school or coaching kids, Maddux has always made a big impact. Imagine Lufkin’s joy then when Maddux expressed an interest in coaching Little League this past offseason.

The league had a head coach opening and pounced at the chance to bring in Maddux. Lufkin features strong youth baseball and adding Maddux might have been the free agent acquisition of the year. Old injuries make walking difficult, but Maddux thinks faster than just about anyone on the baseball field and his fingerprints are all over the team’s success.

“Bud came out this year and coached in the league and when we put the all-star team together the first name out of everyone’s mouth when we talked about who should coach was Bud’s,” Lufkin Parks and Recreation Director Mike Akridge said. “I didn’t know if he would be interested, but I’m glad he was. It was a perfect fit all-around.”

Maddux is an old-school coach but easily can transition to coaching young players. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game but also can relate to the kids, understand them and bring out their best. He has proven it throughout the years and Lufkin has long known it. Now the world is finding out how good a coach Maddux is.

“I give Bud Maddux so much credit,” Lufkin Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Matt Hubert said. “To be mentally tough and to keep showing perseverance through adversity like these kids have done this year is so impressive. To keep them mentally tough and sharp and on the big stage is amazing. I ask them how he gets them to handle it so well and he gets a little smile and tells me one day he’ll let me know.”

Maddux works the players hard. They have practiced twice a day most days since early June, but they enjoy it. They have embraced the yeoman-like work ethic and have proven as tough as they are talented. They have essentially become a reflection of the man who coaches them.

The players love competing for Maddux, too. Many have referred to him as a legend. Some have fathers who once played for Maddux and can see the value of his lessons each day.

“They respect what he does. If he tells them to run through a wall they will do it,” Akridge said. “The coaches and the players love him. He knows the game and those kids will go the extra yard for him.”

That has shown throughout the summer as Lufkin has often made impressive comebacks. The best came at the Southwest Regional tournament when Lufkin erased a seven-run, third-inning deficit and beat 2016 champion San Antonio, 11-10, in extra innings. Lufkin also did not flinch after losing a one-run lead in the fifth inning of the Southwest final against that same team. Instead, Clayton Wigley delivered a two-out, sixth-inning home run as Lufkin made history and won, 2-1.

That Lufkin has stayed so cool when the heat has been turned so high is a testament to Maddux. He knows as well as anyone that sports can be the perfect reflection for life. And when adversity strikes, he has instilled in his players past and present that they must keep swinging.

“Baseball is so much like life. You have a whole lot more failures than successes, but if you fail you don’t let it bring you down. You raise your head and rise above it,” Maddux said. “It’s just a love for the game and the teaching of the young men and watching them develop and watching them becoming good you men. That is the best part about coaching.”

Reaching the Series might be an exclamation point to Maddux’s coaching career but it is not the reason he became a coach. The Series is not what has kept him coming back year after year. And Maddux certainly did not need a Series appearance to validate his status as a tremendous coach and role model.

Make no mistake, Maddux is a fierce competitor. He wants to win as much as anyone else does. But he knows coaching is more than compiling wins and championships. The biggest victory simply is seeing his players develop into quality young men.

More than wins, they provide Maddux’s legacy. And what a legacy he has built.

“I like the way they approach the game and they’re respectful young men,” Maddux said. “It makes you feel good when you have umpires tell you how respectful your team is. I had three of them tell them me (at regionals) that they’re the most respectful team they’ve ever seen. You know you’re doing something right when people tell you that.”