JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - After 47 years of coaching baseball, Hill Denson coached his final game Friday at Belhaven.
His 14 years at Southern Miss are perhaps the most impactful during his career. He helped transform USM Baseball Stadium into Hill Denson Field at Pete Taylor Park.
And, he won a few ball games along the way – 468 to be exact.
“Coach Denson's just genuine,” said Louisiana-Monroe head coach Michael Federico, a former USM coach and player under Denson. “I think that's the biggest word I can say about him. He cares about his players, he cares about the people."
“You look at Skip Bertman, you look at Ron Polk, I say Hill Denson in the same sentence," said USM head coach Scott Berry.
When Denson arrived at Southern Miss in 1984, the baseball program was an after-thought. The roster was filled mostly by football and basketball players – the price of admission free.
“We didn't even sell season tickets,” said Corky Palmer, who succeeded Denson at USM in 1998 and coached until 2009. “There might be 100 people in the stands."
By the time Denson retired from USM in 1997, the Golden Eagles had been to their first two NCAA tournaments (1990-91) and sold countless season tickets – averaging over 2,000 fans per game.
“Over the time after I got there in ‘84 to presently, things started progressing in this part of the country and people started taking baseball seriously,” Denson said. “I’m actually proud of what’s happened there and still continues to get better and better each day with Scott and Corky. I enjoy going back every time I can. Now I’ll be able to go a lot more so that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to.”
With 33 years of coaching college baseball and 1,295 career wins under his belt, Denson’s ready for more family time, hunting and maybe some fishing.
He’ll sprinkle some baseball in there too.
“I told him you can find things to do,” Palmer said. “You can always go to a baseball game if you want to.”
“He’s given a lot to college baseball,” Berry said. “I think he’s in about every hall of fame that you can be in which means that he’s very old. I hope he’s watching and listening to this.”
“I keep telling everybody I still haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do in life but I’ve been hanging around trying to do this for a long time,” Denson said. “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s unbelievable to me that I could live this long and be paid for something that I love doing all the time. I’ve never considered it a job. It’s quite an honor and it’s unbelievable when I look back at the way things happened.”