Baseball fields around the country were empty Saturday but Stanhope Elmore wanted to take the field at least one more time as the Mustangs honored a former coach before the season was in jeopardy. Hank Furlow was the head coach of the baseball program for 18 years and while his name will certainly not be forgotten any time soon, the Mustangs made sure his number would not be either.
Prior to Saturday’s game against Holtville, Stanhope Elmore held a ceremony to unveil the No. 14 on the outfield fence, officially retiring Furlow’s number.
“It just kind of flabbergasted me,” Furlow said. “I was very surprised and very honored to have something like that happen. I wasn’t sure if I deserved something like that. It was just amazing. I got a little teared up about it but I tried to hold it back.”
Current Mustangs coach Kaleb Shuman said it was not just for show as the number will be out of circulation in the program as long as he is in charge. He said that presentation is not just an honor for Furlow but it also gives teaches the players about the history of the program and gives them something to work toward.
“I’m big on the show of the game,” Shuman said. “We try to have a very professional feel to the game with the way it’s presented to the fans here. You see all these numbers of the greats of each team retired in the big leagues and we want that experience at our park.”
During his tenure, Furlow took the Mustangs to six semifinal appearances in Class 5A and won seven area championships. He capped off his career at Stanhope with the school’s first state title in 2006 before being selected to the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
“I’m really big on tradition and history,” Shuman said. “Those were huge accomplishments. You’re talking about playing some of the bigger schools in the state and he was leading them deep into the playoffs.”
Shuman said he got to spend some time with Furlow early in the day before the rest of the team got to the field Saturday. Shuman wanted to make it clear the Mustangs were working to get back to the stage Furlow led them to.
“I remember being a player and coming to play against Stanhope when he was a coach,” Shuman said. “I always admired the program and I wanted him to know his legacy was not lost. We want to get back to that culture and wanted him to know we are heading in the direction he wanted it. It was more about honoring him.”
Furlow wants Stanhope Elmore to return to that stage as well and he believes it has the right man for the job in Shuman.
“I was able to talk to him a good bit during that day,” Furlow said. “He reminds me a little bit about myself. He wants the kids to have fun but he wants them to take it very seriously. He wants to move them up and I’m very proud about what’s going on up there right now.”
As for his number never being worn again, Furlow said he was surprised when Shuman came to him with the proposal. And while it was never about the digits on the back of his jersey, Furlow wanted everyone to know how much that moment meant to him.
“To me, I wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to wear No. 14 but it was quite humbling for them to think enough about me to do that,” Furlow said.