The Beckville Bearcats finally reached the mountaintop in 2018 when they claimed the UIL Class 3A State Baseball Title.
But long before that team — and the 2016 group that also reached the state tournament — the Bearcats made their first trip to state in 2001 under the guidance of Andy Malone.
Coach Malone died Friday in Marshall after a coaching career of 41 years at nine schools, including two state titles at Cooper High School in Abilene, as well as trips to state with the Bearcats and New Diana.
Ryan Weaver was a junior catcher on the state semifinalist team.
He was also a 13-year-old freshman catcher on the varsity team when Malone became the Bearcat coach.
“It was an eye-opener,” Weaver said of the experience. “He didn’t have any trouble telling you if you did something good and he didn’t have any trouble telling you if you messed up. He had no trouble speaking his mind. If he gave you a compliment, he meant it. I wanted to earn his respect. When he told me good job — he meant it.”
After earlier losses in the regional rounds to Rosebud-Lott, Beckville reached state in 2001, something that’s still a source of great pride for Weaver, despite losing to eventual-champ Bremond 5-2.
“That was just a great season,” said Weaver, who was selected to the All-State Tournament Team. “We went to the playoffs three of the four years I was in high school. We finally got over the hump and everything came together that year. We saw that it was possible. He would have us play intrasquad games in practice. It seems like that helped us a lot and made us a better ballclub.
“We should have won it. The semifinal game against Bremond was the title game. Whoever won it was going to be the state champion. It just wasn’t meant to be. If we played 2 out of 3 times, it might have been different. I feel like going to state was one of my greatest accomplishments in high school. I was real thankful that he got us there.”
Justin Booth played for Coach Malone his first two years at Beckville and the Bearcats lost to Rosebud-Lott those seasons in the regional rounds.
“He was a big guy, but he was pretty soft-spoken when he talked and was kind of laid back,” Booth said. “But when he told you something, you knew he meant business.
“I enjoyed playing for him. He was a good coach. He always expected a lot out of us, but he never got too loud. He didn’t have any trouble getting his point across. After I graduated, when I didn’t play for him anymore, I still liked being around him. He was a jam-up guy.”
“He was a great man, a great leader and a great coach,” said Patrick Harris. “I remember when he first came here the reputation he had built for himself and we were aware of it. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy. You couldn’t help but sell out for him.
“He was kind intimidating. He put you to work. We worked harder for him than we did for anyone else. But he didn’t have an ego. He was one of a kind.”
“One year he came out with T-shirts that said ‘Show Me’ on it,” Weaver said. “He didn’t want us to tell him what we were going to do, or how good we were. He wanted us to show him.
“He didn’t want any excuses.”