HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is year 37 guiding Petal baseball for Larry Watkins. As the years go by and accomplishments stack up, the feeling has yet to get old for the ball coach.
"I think when it does that's the time to really get out of it," Watkins said. "But I love it and still enjoy what I'm doing. Been in the same school the whole time and I've been blessed to be able to do that."
Aside from stability, Watkins' blessings include winning. Under his watch the Panthers have won six titles in 12 state championship appearances.
After bringing out the brooms against Terry Petal is back to work this weekend against Gulfport in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
"He's been here for a while, Petal senior Braxton Miller said. "Never had a losing season and I feel good to give him another winning season this year. Just that alone is a big deal."
Miller is just one of many players who grew up dreaming one day to play in the Petal red. Players come and go but Watkins has remained.
"I mean coach, he had, it was about four years ago today," recalled senior Tanner Estill. "Called me up from ninth grade. He had faith in me, telling me to come play over here on varsity. I mean he's a great coach."
Added fellow senior Jacob Hall, "It's cool to get to play for a legend. He's helped us a lot. He's helped me, Tanner and Braxton get college scholarships. That's a big deal for us and it's really cool."
With a career dating back to the 1980s, Watkins has coached the children of former players. Through generations and playoff run after playoff run, the dugout and diamond still has a hold on him.
"You know we've won state championships and (we've been) runner up," Watkins said. "We won six and we've been runner up six times. We've been a third seed and won the state. Seeing kids battle through those playoffs and come up with big hits and the excitement, it's still a thrill to be a part of that."
Who knows when the curtain will close on the storied career of Watkins. For now the show goes on.
Said Watkins, "You know, I know it's getting late in my career but I'm enjoying it day by day."