Tim Hulsey has been a part of coaching baseball for more than 40 years and on Jan. 18, his contributions were honored when he was inducted into the Alabama Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Birmingham.
When asking Hulsey about the honor, he makes it clear that he’s not completely comfortable with that sort of limelight, and he kept returning to the word “humble” in describing the feeling.
Hulsey said he recently attended a baseball camp in the Dominic Republic and returned “humbling” as the description for how he felt there.
“(A lot) of the people there, they have nothing and it just humbled me to see them and what baseball meant to them,” Hulsey said. “I think that’s what this award means to me, too. It shows that they appreciate what I’ve done (in coaching) but I want to make sure people know that I’ve always worked to be a humble person.”
Hulsey grew up in Birmingham and was a star baseball player at Berry High – now known as Hoover – and said that the fondest memories he has growing cup enter around the sport he loves and his grandfather.
“What I think about is riding my bicycle to practice at seven and eight years old because my mom and dad were working and couldn’t take me,” he said. “Stopping by the hardware store and buying baseball cards with the money I raised selling Coca-Cola bottles that I picked up in my wagon.
“I found such a love in (baseball) and my grandfather – who I thought the world of – spending so much time with me and teaching me about baseball.”
After high school, Hulsey walked on to the Auburn baseball team to play for legendary coach Paul Nix.
At Auburn, Hulsey said that Nix had picked Hulsey out for a different profession.
“He came up to me one day and told me I was going to be a good used cars salesman one day,” Hulsey said with a smile. “I told him I was going to be a coach. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”
At Auburn, Hulsey also met his wife Candy, who he said deserves as much credit for the honor of entering the Hall of Fame as he does.
“She took care of the kids when I wasn’t there (much) as they grew up,” Hulsey said. “I would have never had a chance to do what I did had my wife not made a lot sacrifices for me. We were on the road and recruiting and everything all the time.”
After graduating from Auburn, Hulsey landed a spot as an assistant coach on Dan Washburn’s Autauga County team in 1973. In 1975, Hulsey left to further his education at South Alabama – to earn a master’s degree – and was brought on staff as a graduate assistant on the legendary Eddie Stanky’s team.
Stanky – a former Major League Baseball star and coach – and Washburn are two of Hulsey’s mentors that he singles out as having a massive impact on his career.
“Dan Washburn gave me my first job and it’s people like he and Eddie Stanky that really taught me so much,” he emphasized. “Coach Stanky taught me so much about being humble and showed me you have to keep working to get what you want.
“I didn’t even think he knew my name when I was there because he always called me ‘Hustle’ instead of Hulsey.”
After leaving South Alabama, Hulsey had coaching stops at Hewitt-Trussville, Opelika and Woodlawn before taking over as Enterprise State Community College’s head coach.
Hulsey coached at ESCC from 1986-2014, earning Alabama Junior College Southern Coach of the Year in 1989 and had numerous JUCO tournament appearances. During his time at ESCC, he also sent numerous players to major Division I colleges.
Hulsey said that during his son, Will’s, high school career he got a chance to see a grand total of four of his games, but he then got the opportunity to coach Will Hulsey at ESCC. Will Hulsey went on to serve as an assistant coach under his dad, too, and now things have come full circle. Will Hulsey is the head coach at New Brockton and Tim Hulsey is one of his assistant coaches.
“His love for the game makes me proud but he’s also a better father than me,” Tim Hulsey said. “I watch him around his kids and I see the growth and maturity in him.
“I see him doing things that I did but I also see him not making the same mistakes I did. That makes me feel better because it’s a learning process.”
Tim Hulsey said that he’s also using his time as an assistant these days – and not a head coach – to spend much needed time with his four grandchildren.
“I want to be a better grandfather than I was a dad,” Tim Hulsey flatly said. “My grandfather meant so much to me and I’ve spent so much time trying to prove myself and trying to help other people’s kids, I want to spend my time helping them now.”
While the time away from his family has obviously impacted Tim Hulsey greatly, he said the impact he’s found that he’s had on his players is an award itself.
“One thing I learned about coaching is that sometimes the people you love the most you’re not there for them as much as you should, because you’re helping someone else’s kids,” he emphasizes.
David Hussey was a star player at Enterprise High School before losing his life in an automobile accident. Hulsey coached Hussey on all-star teams and was close to the family.
“One night in December I got a phone call from Dan Hussey and he wanted me to come to the hospital because David had been involved in a wreck and he wanted me to have a prayer around David,” Tim Hulsey continued. “They were going to turn off the respirator and he wanted me there. To have a father call a coach to be there with everyone in that prayer, that was humbling.”
A similar situation with an ESCC student – Austin Smith – humbled the longtime coach. Smith had been a star baseball player and football player at Zion Chapel before losing his life to a car accident his freshman year at ESCC.
“One day I was in my office busy with paperwork when a young kid walked in my door and he said, ‘Coach Hulsey, I’m Austin Smith and I want to try out for your baseball team, because you’re my last chance’,” he continued. “He told me to just give me a chance and he would make the team. That Thursday night one the way home from getting a physical done he had a wreck.
“When some kid tells you – looks you in your eyes – and tells you you’re his last chance, that’s humbling. From then on, every single kid that walked into my office and looked me in my eyes, I looked right back into their eyes. Sometimes in coaching we get so busy that we can lose sight of those things, of being humble.”
Hulsey said that as reluctant as he was to accept a nomination to the Hall of Fame – that’s a part of being humble – he wanted to make sure that his accepting of the award was as much about all of those people in his life that helped him get there.