Coach Ray Crone: Spirit of Gainesville nominee


Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 6:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 6:13 p.m.

A few years back I had the pleasure of coaching little leage baseball in the Gainesville city league. All my team's ballplayers are grown now and probably have children of their own. Still, when I drive by Westside park or the Hal Brady Sports Center in Alachua, I often remember the players, the games, the parents, and the fun we had.

Facts

Category: Sportsmanship

About Coach Ray Crone

Occupation: Teacher at W. W. Irby Elementary

Years in Gainesville: 49

Driving by a baseball field a week ago I saw a familiar face walking toward the field. He was dressed in blue and was ready to umpire a game. It was Coach Ray Crone and he umpired many of the games in which my sons played. Doing a little reseach, I found a June, 2006, GAINESVILLE SUN article where writer Gary Kirkland wrote, “For better than two decades, Ray Crone has been behind the plate in Gainesville, calling the balls and strikes and close plays at home.” Umpiring youth sports is not easy. Yet, Ray has donned the blue umpire's uniform more than 5,000 times officiating area ball games. In fact, 2012 marks 30 years since Ray called his first youth league game and I suspect he'll be calling games far into the future.

While his avocation is umpiring, his vocation is teaching. Coach Crone is the physical education teacher at W.W. Irby Elementary in Alachua. In each endeavor he teaches and practices good sportsmanship, good citizenship, and the benefits of physical activity. Ray takes both of his jobs seriously explaining in Mr. Kirkland's article about umpiring, “Whether it's T-Ball or a state final, it means something to the participants.” Kirkland adds, “At 6-foot-4, about 250 pounds, he towers over the 10 and 12-year-olds, but with his near constant smile and gentle nature, he's hardly intimidating. He's matter-of-fact with his calls, and completely lacking in showmanship.”

Ray told the SUN, “The best officials are the ones you don't notice.” Well, over the last three decades lots of parents have noticed Ray Crone and appreciated the positive impact Ray has on youth sports and thousands of our local children. While we all give umpires a hard time, for 30 years Coach Crone has been a role model for the sport seeing to it that our young ballplayers observe the rules of fair play and that the players and coaches have respect for the game and each other.

Submitted by J. K. "Buddy" Irby

Second Nomination

It is my pleasure to recommend Ray Crone for the Spirit of Gainesville Award. I have know Ray for 20 years. My first encounters with Ray were on the baseball fields when he was the referee for games played by my two sons. Although I can't say we always liked the calls he made ;-), we fully understood that Ray was a fair, highly respected professional. Each call he made was prefaced by his total concentration on the game.

Ray demonstrated the highest level of sportsmanship and served as an excellent role model to the players. We always felt better when Ray was the umpire--we knew our team was in the best hands.

Ray is now a personal friend. We attend the same church, Trinity United Methodist, and are both educators. He is the most friendly person, never meets a stranger, and upholds the highest moral principles in his dealings with his friends, students and colleagues.

Ray has served as a great ambassador for Gainesville. He is a Gainesville native and has traveled nationwide to umpire and referee at many important sporting events.

Ray is a most deserving nominee. I do hope the committee will recognize what a wonderful gentleman he is and recommend him for the award.

Submitted by Mary Hall

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