One local baseball fanatic has been involved with “America’s Pastime” from a young age, and he still remembers his first memories of his love for the game to this day. Paris High School head baseball coach Bill Sikes grew his baseball passion aided by the games he played with his peers and the knowledge he gained from his coaches.
“Growing up here in Paris, baseball was a really big thing for all kids — we all played in the neighborhood,” Sikes said. “Don’t get me wrong we played everything, but for me, I really loved baseball. I grew up in western Paris and grew up around neighbors with the right brothers, and we had a bunch of kids in the neighborhood. We played baseball all the time. We had a little place we called ‘the gas lot’ and we stayed down there all the time. We also played in the summer leagues where I played for Dale Henry and Fred Nutt, and we really loved it. There are so many people I played for that made the game so important to us when we were so young.”
As he rose through the ranks in his youth, Sikes was impacted greatly by his high school coaches, who were the first ones to teach him how to both love the game of baseball and play the game the right way.
“Baseball was big here at Paris High School,” Sikes said. “Coach (Benton) Rainey and (Johnny) Holleman were our coaches back in the ’70s. When I first started playing at the high school, we played our varsity games on The Hill. I also played some ball at PJC for Coach (Larry) Click. It’s been something I’ve grown up with, and it’s something you appreciate more the older you get and the more you can be around it. It means so much more than just sports and athletics. Baseball in the United States is just awesome. I could go on and on about it, but there’s no sense in that.”
When his playing days came to a close, Sikes entered the next chapter of his career as a baseball coach. As it was the case for Sikes as a player, coaching baseball kept him close to the game he admired, and it gave him an opportunity to share his knowledge and experiences with young, aspiring players in the area.
“Staying around the game, wanting to be around the game, and wanting to work with kids,” Sikes said. “Before I coached at the high school level, I spent years and years in youth leagues — all the way from seven- and eight-year-olds, all the way up to 17- and 18-year-olds and loved it then.”
Traditionally, the Paris Wildcats program has been strong under Sikes’ leadership. In 2019, the Wildcats missed the playoffs by one game in the district standings, which was the Wildcats’ first postseason absence in more than a decade. Even though COVID-19 eliminated Paris’ opportunity of getting back into the playoffs, Sikes plans to use the recent turmoil as motivation for his team.
“I thought we were headed in the right direction this year. We lost some really good seniors, so we are going to use this year as a really good building block,” Sikes said. “The season before, we had a tough year with injuries and had to relieve some players. You have those types of years every now and then, but we are ready to get back to where we usually are. That was the first time we missed the playoffs in a really long time. Sometimes you have those years where everything piles up on you, so what we’re doing is using the bad luck last year with the season ending as a learning tool. We always tell the kids to take advantage of what they’ve got because we don’t know when the season will end. We have some very good kids with good character. That’s the reason why we think we are going to get back…These kids are working hard and they love the game.”
As he and his team press forward, Sikes continues to instill the core value he learned from a young age and fights to keep the game’s integrity in check in every environment.
“As far as on the field, there’s a lot of teams that play hard and play the right way, and that aspect of the game is still the same today. That’s what you strive for — to play hard and to play the game the right way,” Sikes said. “The things that bother me a little bit are some of the politics that sometimes goes on in select ball. Sometimes coaches will get paid and will pat certain players on the back…Not all select ball is like that, sometimes it’s different. Sometimes it carries over some, but a lot of these coaches really help us. It’s the same game played the same way, and if you play hard and play right like you do in any sport, it will still be the same. If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got throw strikes, make the plays, and do the little things. The summer coaches and summer leagues in Paris has been a big help and a big part of our success. Having coaches come from the outside has also been a big help for our team. Our administration has been very helpful in baseball as well.”
Perfect attendance was a strength for Sikes on and off the field as he was growing up. Along with that, not all of his partners in crime can pick up a bat or throw a ball, but he loves a certain furry companion of his nonetheless.
“I’ve never missed a practice or a day of school in my life,” Sikes said. “I was a terrible student in high school, but I was a very good student in college. When I got serious, I only made one B because of an attendance deal in my badminton class…I love my little dog named Rosie. My players think that’s crazy. She’s a little Yorkie that rides around town with me with her head out of the window. In fact, she and I made the paper pulling up to the school during the summer.”
Even 30 years after an embarrassing event transpired at his expense, Sikes recalls a time where he unintentionally drew laughter in his own church.
“One day in church, I helped take up the offering,” Sikes said. “When I got through, I went and sat down on the wrong aisle, and sat next to a woman who wasn’t my wife, and slid my arm around this lady. Of course, I wasn’t paying attention and I noticed the whole church, preacher, and choir were all looking at me while snickering and giggling. Then, I looked up a couple of rows, and my wife was looking back at me. I knew right there I was in trouble. I hate to tell that story but it’s true.”
Along with the funny yet forgettable memories at his own expense, Sikes has encountered several other humorous situations that are difficult to forget even years later.
“I was coaching seventh-grade football at Crockett, and we were lining up to get loose,” Sikes said. “There was a kid that came up beside me and said, ‘Hey, I have to eat this apple before practice.’ I asked him why he had to eat the apple before practice, and he said to me that his doctor told him to. I asked him why he had to eat the apple, and he told me it was because he previously had a light heart attack. I remember him telling me that, and shoot, I let him eat the apple. Surely he misinterpreted something, but kids will say stuff that is hard to forget like that.”
In order to find inner peace or resolve any other issues he might be dealing with, Sikes knows where his happy place is and uses his time there effectively.
“I live out in the country and get out in my backyard on my back porch,” Sikes said. “I try to solve a lot of problems out there with my notepad and pen. I use it as a getaway for all situations. That’s my place. I’ll go out there early in the morning, sometimes late at night, after ball games — just all the time.”
As the 2020-21 school year approaches, Sikes aims to get his program on track and to fully enjoy the entire process with his team.