POLLOK, Texas (KTRE) - Thirty-six years ago it was not uncommon to see Jack Lee share his viewpoint with an umpire he disagreed with.
Now Lee can be seen sitting in the stands at “The Hill” or sometimes behind the backstop with a radio headset on giving his expert opinions on the game taking place on the field.
If anyone knows baseball in East Texas, it is Jack Lee. In his career, Lee had 402 wins. He led Central to the 1977 Regional Final, at the time it was as far as Central was allowed to go. In 1983, Lee and the Bulldogs made it all the way to state and won it all.
“The memories are exactly the same,” Lee said. “Exactly. Being that long doesn’t seem that way. It seems like it was yesterday. Not 36 years ago.”
The current Central Bulldogs are just two wins from earning a trip to the UIL 3A baseball State Tournament. They would join Lee’s ’83 team as the only Central teams to make it to Austin.
“I don’t know if the kids realize it yet but one day they will,” Neighbors said. One day they will realize how special of a moment this is. They will look back on this and cherish it. Maybe not now but they will one day."
After years of seeing good baseball Lee is still excited for what he is witnessing.
“Really excited,” Lee said. “It is truly good. It is a great feeling. I am surprised it has taken this long but here we all. It shows how hard it is. Some teams get more chances then others but you have to take them when they come to you.”
Lee knows the stress of being a coach which is why he lets Neighbors do the coaching.
“I like to just watch,” Lee said. “It is his team. These are a good group of kids and I don’t want to second guess anything. Neighbors knows what he is doing.”
Lee might have given up coaching a while back but he has still been employed by the district and teaches students. This year he shared a first period P.E. class with neighbors. Neighbors used the time to perfect his game plans.
“You have to use the experiences of someone like that,” Neighbors said. “We would bounce ideas off of each other and I am drawing diagrams on the back of paper. I am always bouncing stuff off of coach Lee. When you have that type of guy with that knowledge if you don’t lean on him it is not a very smart idea.”
With retirement here, Lee is now just a fan. He doesn’t plan on missing any games. He looks back at his ’77 and ’83 teams and then at this team and he sees one common thread.
“In the close games you can’t count them out,” Lee said. “That is the sign of a good team. Anybody that can come back and is never out of it. That is what you want.”
Central will begin their best of three game series with Kirbyville for the Region III Championship on Thursday at 6 pm from Humble ISD. Game 2 will be Friday at 6 pm back at Humble ISD and the teams will be back in Humble on Saturday at 3 pm iff a third game is needed.
Coach Lee will have a public retirement reception on Sunday June 2 from 2-4 pm at the Convention Center in downtown Lufkin. The public is invited.