Tim Sumner still recalls working summers at Inland Steel as a laborer.
"I told myself I would never work another 3-to-11 shift as long as I live," Sumner said. "Boy, was I ever wrong."
Sumner, a 1965 Morton grad who was the baseball team's captain, played at Taylor University, then went on to have a successful career as a high school and college baseball coach. He earned a Ph.D., at Mississippi State in educational leadership. He also served as a compliance director at Mississippi State and Memphis State (now University of Memphis).
He now owns and operates Batter's Box, a baseball and softball training facility in Colliervile, Tenn., outside Memphis.
"My hours are from about 2 o'clock in the afternoon until 10:30, sometimes maybe 11," Sumner said. "I never tough I would love this shift, but I do because I love what I am doing."
Sumner played for Jack Georgas at Morton and Jack King at Taylor. At Taylor, he was named to the 1969 NAIA all-tournament team. He went on to a successful baseball coaching career at Eastbrook High School in central Indiana, where he was 250-111 in 13 years.
He said his passion for the game came from playing in the parks in Hessville and by watching baseball on TV.
"I learned a lot about baseball by coming home in the afternoons by listening to Jack Brickhouse, Lloyd Pettit, Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd on Cubs games," Sumner said. "Those rain delays with Jack Brickhouse doing those interviews — they are priceless."
In 1982 he got a chance to join Ron Polk's staff at Mississippi State. King had written him a letter of recommendation and Polk respected King.
"It was a great move because I was able to work in one of the top programs and for a great coach in Polky," Sumner said. "We had a nice run, including third in the the 1985 College World Series."
He said he convinced Polk to give future major league star reliever Bobby Thigpen a chance on the mound.
"Thigpen kept asking to throw batting practice and said, 'Tell Polky to give me a chance,' so I asked," Sumner said. "Bobby had an arm on him and you can always use good pitching."
Sumner earned his doctorate in educational leadership, and in 1985 became an assistant athletic director in charge of compliance.
"That was kind of new, but I think the college presidents saw the need," Sumner said. " The late 1970s and early 1980s were bad as far as rule-breaking by the schools. The graduation rates, the other things going on. You did not have the 'making progress towards a degree' rule back then."
He said it was tough to call in coaches, but it was his job. Instead of figuring how to get around an NCAA rule, his job was to make sure the rule was not violated.
He moved to Memphis State to clean up the mess in the athletic department.
"They were in hot water and the NCAA was breathing down their necks," Sumner said. "I don't think they had graduated a basketball player since the late 1970s and the NAACP was also coming down on them because black athletes were not graduating.
"We made progress because I also had the backing of the university president. The winning aspect seems to supersede the reason you are in school and that is to get a degree."