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Where are they now? with Reggie Whittemore

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Reggie “Rock” Whittemore, a former Lipscomb Bison outfielder, has been named to the Metro Nashville Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame. Whittemore is a former baseball star from McGavock High School. He has been head of the RBI program in Nashville since its beginning in 1996, an organization that helps inner city youth interested in playing baseball or softball. He is also a board member of the Nashville Baseball Old-Timers Association.

Whittemore played in the minors for the Boston Red Sox organization. A member of the Lipscomb Sports Hall of Fame, Whittemore played on two NAIA National Championship teams in 1977 and 1979.

He paused after an evening of practice sessions with RBI teams to talk with Lipscombsports.com.

What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?

"I started at Lipscomb in 1975. I played a little bit of fall ball. Right before the 1976 season I broke my leg sliding into second base. I got my cleats caught in the dirt. I was redshirted and came back in 1977.

"We won the National Championship. We had a lot of veteran players. As a freshmen that was just a tremendous year to be a part of that. As a freshman I was just trying to blend in where I could. Coach Ken Dugan put me n right field.

"In 1979 we backed into the National Championship at Greer Stadium. One of the teams had a problem with discipline and was not allowed to play. The tournament needed an at-large team. They didn't really think it was going to be our moment. We let everyone know who we were and won the championship.

"My last year was 1979. I had turned down numerous pro offers. At McGavock the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox called. It wasn't the right fit. My Dad told me I had to make sure I got my education.

"Once I got drafted after my junior year I made sure the Boston Red Sox put some money away for my education. I was playing Class A in Winston-Salem, N.C. In the offseason I came back home and made sure I got my diploma. I received my degree in education from Lipscomb in 1982."

What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?

"When we won the 1979 National Championship that was overall my best experience as far as being on the baseball field.

"Winning the National Championship after we had been eliminated was a surprise not only to Lipscomb, but to the entire community. We were back home and on the couch.

"I remember Coach Dugan saying we were back in and to go out there and give it all we had. And that's what we did. We had nothing to lose. Coach Dugan told us we had a chance to do something that no one else had ever done.

"We went out and strived for excellence. We hustled. We gave it all of our effort. Everybody stepped up."

Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?

"Coach Dugan. He was always fair to me. He was always a gracious guy as far as me, my Dad, my Mom and the rest of my family. I have always had a lot of good thoughts about him and what he did for Lipscomb.

"I couldn't be where I am today without him. He was a great mentor. I learned a lot from him. He was awesome.

"Coach Dugan had disciples he had sent out in the world like Bo McLaughlin, Butch Stinson and Mel Brown. At McGavock Mel Brown was one of the guys who told me I needed to go to Lipscomb. He said that he went there and that Coach Dugan was a wonderful man who would teach me the game and get me to whatever level I wanted. I took Coach Brown's advice. It couldn't have been a better thing for me."

What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?

"I came from the projects in South Nashville. I wasn't someone who knew how to study and get straight A's. I had to learn how to study.

"My second year in school Will Brewer, who was on the golf team, showed up one day and said, `Reg, I need to talk with you and show you a few things'.

"I needed to do this, this and this to know what was going on with my study habits like how to take notes. Will came to me out of the blue and sat me down and told me what I needed to do. From that day on I started to get it.

"It wasn't easy for me. It was difficult, especially my first year. I needed a little help and guidance and I got it. But Will and I were in some of the same classes so it was a good fit. He taught me a lot.

"I think Coach Dugan sent Will to me. Coach Dugan didn't want me to struggle in the classroom. He wanted me to make it through. I have told Will over the years how much I appreciated it. I told him I thought Coach Dugan sent him and he didn't deny it."

What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?

"There was nothing more important to me than getting a valuable education.

"But I also learned how to get along with other people. And I learned how to be on time. If you make an appointment or have something to do then always be on time. If I am going to meet someone at 1 then I am going to be there 15 minutes early. You could not be late for Coach Dugan's practice. Coach Dugan taught us to work hard."

Who was your favorite professor? Why?

"Dr. Ralph Nance. There could be others, but Dr. Nance had a love for the game of baseball. He always patted you on the back. He made sure you were always encouraged even if you had a bad series or a bad game. He would tell you to hang in there and keep going forward.

"He was a very good friend of Coach Dugan. He never missed a game. He was such a force for me."

Where do you live now?

"Antioch."

Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?

"I really wanted to teach school. I remember going to the Board of Education and filling out all the information. I was about 99.9 percent certain I was going to be in the school system.

"But at the last second Charlie Finchum from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee saw me at the "duck" race on the Cumberland River. Steve Liddle, Mel Williams and me and a bunch of other guys went to the club and volunteered when we were in college. We refereed basketball games and did whatever we could to help out.

"Charlie remembered that and asked me to come on board with the Boys and Girls clubs. I opened up the Martha O'Brien Center in East Nashville with about 60 or 70 kids. I also was director of the Andrew Jackson club.

"When the RBI program started we decided that was something we wanted to do. I was director of the baseball program at the same time. We made everything work. We started with about 60 kids. We got Metro Parks involved and it grew to where we have close to 1,000 kids.

"RBI and Major League Baseball have been good to our program. I am executive director of RBI. It has been 16 years and I'm still doing it."

Tell us about your family.

“I have been married four years to my wife Angela. She has two sons, Brandon and Jonathon.”