He did not call a big media conference or toot his own horn. That wouldnâ€™t be his style.
He simply said, â€œItâ€™s just time,â€ and with those three words, Lincolnton Wolves baseball coach Bobby Martin stepped down.
Perhaps when youâ€™ve enjoyed so much success you earn that right â€” to step away from the game you love on your own terms.
â€œIâ€™ve had a good run of 16 years as head coach. Iâ€™m thrilled with everything Iâ€™ve done, and Iâ€™ve had great support from the community and the athletic department, administration, parents, players. Itâ€™s just time for someone else to take the reigns,â€ Martin said.
Martin will hand the job over to long-time assistant coach Cole Sigmon. He has complete confidence in his successor.
â€œIâ€™ve had a good assistant coach, very knowledgeable about baseball and I donâ€™t feel bad about turning it over to him because I know heâ€™ll do a good job,â€ he said.
Martin won 181 games and guided the Wolves to the N.C. State Baseball Playoffs for seven years: from 1994-1999 and again in his final season as Wolves head coach. His team also won the conference championship in 1992 and 1995.
Lincolnton Athletic Director Scott Cloninger is sad to see him go and recognizes all Martin has done in his tenure.
â€œBobbyâ€™s been a great coach for us on and off the field. His a leadership and guidance has helped to develop tons of our student-athletes. His loyalty and pride to Lincolnton High School, he has upgraded our facility to one of the best around and his hard work and determination, will be missed on our baseball field,â€ he said.
The pinnacle of Martinâ€™s success came in 1995, the year the Wolves became state champions. He recalls that team fondly.
â€œItâ€™s got to be the state championship in â€™95, athletes that could do it all offensively and defensively, great speed, great pitching. Thatâ€™s a team of a lifetimeâ€”thatâ€™s a dream team,â€ he said.
The thing he remembers most in â€™95 or any other year is the young men that suited up for him.
â€œThatâ€™s what you do it for, you want to be successful for the kids, thatâ€™s what youâ€™re in it for. I didnâ€™t have any doubt that sooner or later we would play good baseball. It just happened to be that I got a good ball club all together at one time and they did exactly that,â€ Martin said.
Everything has come full-circle for Martin, as Jami Creech one of his former players that played on that state championship team has returned to Lincolnton.
â€œWhat you take most with you is the relationship you had with the kids. Itâ€™s great to walk down a hall and look in a room and see Jami Creech standing in there. Heâ€™s just one, to go back and to think of all the kids that Iâ€™ve had and friendships that Iâ€™ve developed with them after they got out of schoolâ€”they come back and they watch us practice, watch us play, want to know how weâ€™re doing and whatâ€™s going on,â€ Martin said.
While one former player is back at his old stomping ground, another former player is in Iraq fighting in the war. Stephen Adams, a 1997 Lincolnton High School graduate, who used to suit up in the black and gold, is now suiting up in fatigues.
His older brother Grant Adams recently stopped by Lincolnton High to ask Martin, and other coaches Stephen played for, if he would be willing to slip him a note to let him know his former coaches are thinking about him and praying for him.
â€˜Of course we did, we want him to know that weâ€™re thinking about him,â€™ Martin said about how they responded to the plea.
Martin accomplished much more than being 1994, 1995 and 2004 conference coach of the year. He also spearheaded an effort to get lights for the baseball field, Bermuda grass on the infield, a press box, and make the park one of the top facilities in the state. The coach, though, allows himself to take only some of the credit.
â€œMost of that stuff was maybe my idea, but I didnâ€™t get it done without the help of the community, parents, administration and the athletic department. Thereâ€™s no way I can take credit for all that, but it just so happened on my watch,â€ he said.
â€œWhat weâ€™ve been trying to do is do one pretty good size thing every year and weâ€™ve been lucky that weâ€™ve gotten some help with that financially from the community and local businesses.â€
The field now bears the name of Brookinsâ€™ Memorial Field, as in Jonathan Brookins a 1997 graduate who passed away in a car accident in 1998. Martin felt Brookinsâ€™, another one of his former players, competitive spirit was unique.
â€œI knew I could write his name in the lineup and he would go out there and give me everything he had every time. There was never any quit in him and itâ€™s just one of those thingsâ€”he was a special player,â€ he said.
So what does Martin, who won conference championships (1992 and 1995) and a Region 6 North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association award, want to leave behind?
â€œI hope everybody looks at my tenure is I tried to coach good fundamental baseball and help kids learn to play baseball,â€
When asked if heâ€™ll be a consultant to the Wolvesâ€™ baseball program, Martin said heâ€™ll be available to Sigmon, but that he doesnâ€™t expect heâ€™ll need anything.
If heâ€™s got questions, Iâ€™ll be more than happy to help him, but I donâ€™t think that will be necessary. Heâ€™s been around coaching long enough, he knows the ins and outs of that. Iâ€™ll do whatever I can, but I doubt that will be necessary,â€ he said.
Martinâ€™s successor couldnâ€™t decide on just one memory, instead he chose to remember how Martin approached everything.
â€œI donâ€™t know if I can pinpoint one thing. He just ran everything just like everything was first-class even right up to game-time and everything before game-time getting the field ready. It was the way it was supposed to done,â€ Sigmon said.
â€œI just hope I can do it the way he did it and weâ€™ll be OK,â€ he added.
Martin will remain on Lincolntonâ€™s football team as an assistant coach, but his legacy will always be found anytime someone compliments Brookinsâ€™ Field or recalls the Wolvesâ€™ state championship of â€™95.
by John Mark Brooks