Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South baseball coach Bobby Waits stands with his daughter, Riley, before a game. Riley helps her dad as a scorekeeper for the team.
When Madera South baseball coach Bobby Waits was 6 or 7 years old, he used to lock himself in his room and commentate imaginary sports events for fun.
His mom can verify the story.
“My mom still brings it up at times about how she could hear me announcing my own game that I would create in my room,” said Waits, now 45. “I always thought if I couldn’t make it in pro baseball, then that was something I could fall back on.”
Since Waits was a child, sports has been a driving force for him like so many of his family members. Like the uncle he was named after, Waits continued the family baseball tradition of moving from player to coach.
Following a standout high school career with the Bullard-Fresno Knights, Waits took his talents to Fresno City College where he pitched on the 1992 pitching staff, winning a state championship under head coach Ron Scott.
Waits was drafted in the 52nd round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1991 draft, but elected to stay at Fresno City College.
His high school coaching career consists of stops all over the Central Valley: Clovis East, San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno and Bullard. In all, it’s more than 15 years experience, including his current position at Madera South.
Waits uses his past indiscretions and experiences as a former high school standout at Bullard to relate to his current players on a deeper level. His ability to offer that helping hand that he could’ve used back when he was a high schooler provides confidence to his players and students.
He constantly preaches a “team first” mentality to his players.
“It’s trying to instill in their minds that they’re good enough and they belong where they’re at,” Waits said.
Through hard work, dedication and the ability to be coached, it’s only a matter of time before things turn around, he says.
“I know I could’ve learned from that lesson when I was their age,” Waits said. “I try to remind them that it’s more about the team and understanding the importance of being selfless, not selfish.”
Waits recalled his time as a high school baseball player getting away with things and not working as hard as he should have.
“A lot of times when I was younger, I took a lot of things for granted,” Waits said. “I also could’ve been a better student as well. At times, being fairly famous in the sport of baseball let me get away with things that maybe some students might not be able to.”
Waits graduated from Bullard-Fresno high school in 1989.
“It’s a good experience to reflect back and look at what things I can do better to help both past and present players that I coach,” Waits said.
Madera South Athletic Director Andrea Devine described Waits as an asset to the school.
“Bobby is huge for our athletic program,” Devine said. “He’s very excited about his program, which gets his own kids excited. He’s definitely a coach that models everything that he expects from his kids.”
Devine said Waits’ ability to connect with the kids is an important factor in his success.
“He has a great coaching staff and what’s also an asset about him is that he’s also a teacher on campus,” Devine said. “He makes a great connection with the kids on the field and in the classroom. He keeps up on their grades, he checks up on their behavior; he’s a great role model for the kids.”
Even with all the rigors of coaching a varsity baseball team, teaching English and raising a family, Waits still comes to work every day for the kids with a smile on his face.
“There are times where I can be overwhelmed with all of the duties that come along with it,” Waits said. “But I love what I do.”
Nugesse Ghebrendrias is a student in Gary Rice’s community journalism class at California State University, Fresno.