Tice tabbed area's top baseball coach|Tigers’ skipper trying to soften his approach

Published 2:43 am Saturday, July 3, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Hank Tice may never be labeled a “players’ coach,” but the leader of the Williamston baseball team will always be called a winner.
Since taking over as head coach of the Tigers in 2004, Tice has won three conference titles and has helped build upon Williamston’s strong baseball legacy.
This season Tice’s team finished second in the Four Rivers Conference with an 18-8 record, placing behind a Perquimans team that many picked to win the 1-A state championship.
The Tigers’ postseason run came up a bit short this year as they were halted in the first round by a crafty lefty bearing an East Carteret jersey. Though its voyage was cut short, that does not diminish Williamston’s successful journey. In fact, it’s that triumphant path to the playoffs that entitled Tice to be named the Washington Daily News Baseball Coach of the Year.
Tice acknowledges his stern persona, and while he as been working on softening his approach, said that there is a method to the madness.
“It’s probably safe to say that at points in time I’m probably not a players’ coach,” Tice said. “We try and make our practices tough because we want to make sure that when we play the game it’s easy. The only way you can do that is to work really, really hard in practice and during the offseason.”
Williamston starter Matthew Perry said Tice’s tactics are tough, but inspirational.
“He’ll motivate you, he knows how to get you into the game,” Perry said. “He’s taught me how to work hard. If I’m not pitching well, he will help me get through it.”
Coaches evolve over time, and lately Tice has been tweaking his winning recipe by adding a little more Joe Torre and a little less Lou Piniella.
“I have tried to be better that last few years; I’m trying to do a better job of being more personable,” Tice said. “That’s probably my flaw, and I’m man enough to say it. I’ve tried to work on it and it’s something I will continue to work on.
“I’m a competitor and I take losing really, really hard. I’m coaching a really good program, and I care a lot about these kids, but we have exited the playoffs the last two years in the first round and I take that very, very personal.”
If Tice takes a loss to heart, it’s only because he has loved the game for so long. Tice said that even in high school during his playing days he knew he wanted to coach baseball.
“I graduated Williamston High School in 1994, and unlike most people, I knew I wanted to teach and coach when I was a freshman in high school,” Tice said. “I graduated and began helping (then baseball coach Herbie) Rogers in 1995. I have been here since, except for in 1998 when I was at Roanoke for a year coaching with Tim Manning when I did my student teaching.”
Tice credits Manning, along with all his past coaches like Mike Parrell, Rogers and legendary football coach Harold Robinson for helping develop his style.
One of the common traits among those coaching greats is attention to detail and preparation, something Tice tries to impart on his teams.
“We try to emphasize fundamentals, that’s the biggest thing,” Tice said. “Baseball is game of failure and sometimes it’s hard for kids to accept that. You’re going to fail in this game more than you are going to succeed; day in and day out it’s a game of failure. That’s probably the biggest thing we try and prepare the kids for. … We just try to teach everything there is about the game of baseball so that when they are in a game everything slows down for them a little bit and a they can handle it.
“I think the thing that makes me and the other coaches feel good is that any kid can leave here and coach their son, and that’s probably the most important thing we do.”
Tice said the other coaches, assistant Brian Swift and Bobby Williams, contribute greatly to the team’s success and legacy.
“I extremely blessed to have the coaches I have,” Tice said. “Those guys are the backbone of this program. Without those guys this program doesn’t continue to be successful.”