Boozer and Coats bring volunteer spirit to Governor’s Cup weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 4, 2004

[7/29/04]Let’s get the name out of the way first.

His given name is William Emerson, but if you ask many around the Vicksburg Baseball Association who William Emerson is, they may respond with a puzzled look.

Ask for Boozer, though, and one will certainly get pointed in the right direction.

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And to get something else out of the way, Boozer has no connection to an affinity for potent potables; rather his junior high school basketball coach was a New York Jets fan.

When William was young, one of the main weapons for the Jets was a running back named Emerson Boozer. The nickname stuck. Boozer, the Vicksburg version, will be at Halls Ferry Park again this weekend coaching a 13-year-olds’ team in the Governor’s Cup. After that, he said, he is retiring.

Normally, one retires from a paying job, but if Boozer ever received compensation for the work he’s done over the years for youth baseball players in this community, it would break the city’s coffers.

Volunteerism in such organizations is what keeps community programs flourishing. Boozer has been roaming the fields as coach, mentor and father-figure for years.

To see him, though, visitors will have to meet Billy Coats first. This man has long since had a child playing for the VBA, yet he plays a integral part in the organization’s operations.

During the Governor’s Cup, Coats is stationed at the foot of Halls Ferry Park greeting parents and fans, collecting admission fees and usually engaging in conversations of various lengths. Often, cars back up almost to the Home Depot because Billy is spreading his good cheer.

Governor’s Cup officials offered him a tent to shade him from the sun, but he declined. He moves around too much, he said.

Boozer and Coats sounds like a bad comedy duo, but in this community they are no laughing matter.

It is easy to coach, run leagues and be involved when junior is running around the bases stretching a double into a triple. But to be out in all weather conditions simply to better the community is a testament to these two men.

As examples of “civic responsibility,” Boozer and Coats have earned a tremendous amount of respect around this community, and communities around the area.

So, on this weekend when the Governor’s Cup wraps up and the line of cars to get into the park begins to inch back toward Interstate 20, don’t fret. Billy will have plenty of good cheer as you pay the admission price.

Then you’ll watch Boozer Emerson coach his team in an effort to go out in a blaze of glory.

Although it is doubtful that he will go out at all.

Remember Roger Clemens? How many boxers retire, then unretire, then retire once again?

When the temperature begins to climb next spring, Billy Coats will be doing his thing with the VBA.

Let’s hope Boozer follows the lead.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.