When the Apollo Eagles baseball team scored five runs in the 6th inning to win against Henderson County on Monday, April 27, it was Bob Mantooth’s 900th win as head baseball coach. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, this milestone has only been reached by five other coaches in state history. But there was no celebration on the field or in the locker room. In fact, his players were completely unaware. He received congratulatory handshakes from his assistant coaches, and that was enough. Such is the humble manner of Coach Bob Mantooth.
In his thirty-two years as head coach at Apollo, Bob Mantooth has led the Eagles to ten regional titles. Obviously, Mantooth is an outstanding coach, but what these stats don’t show is that he is a true father figure both on and off the field. Ask anyone who knows him, however, and he or she will not comment on Bob’s numbers, but rather on his integrity. Richie Stanley learned “honesty, self-perseverance, and character” during his five seasons playing under Coach Mantooth from 2004-2008. “The most important being character,” Stanley commented. “No one can bring that image to life like Coach Mantooth.”
“Bob Mantooth’s legacy goes far beyond wins and losses. In my opinion, Bob’s success was a by-product of his love for the game of baseball, for his passion for young people, and for his dedication to the community of Owensboro. His focus has always been on developing character in his players first, followed by developing great baseball players. Apollo High School and countless student athletes have been blessed by Bob Mantooth’s career.”
-Greg Baughn, former Apollo High School student-athlete and coach
One of the few people who did realize the relevance of the 900th win was Ryne Mantooth, the coach’s son and assistant coach. Growing up, Ryne spent much of his time at baseball and basketball games and practices, as his father coached both. During high school, Ryne played on the team for five years. In 2003, Ryne was pitching when the Eagles won the regional title, a cherished memory for both father and son. Ryne went on to play college ball at Austin Peay and has coached with his father for six seasons. “Coaching with Dad is a true joy,” he said. “Both of us share a great passion for the game of baseball and developing young men on and off of the baseball field. To get to do that together is really enjoyable. I just hope that he enjoys it as much as I do.”
Baseball has always been a family tradition for the Mantooth family. Bob started playing at age seven for the newly-formed Valley Sports Little League; his father was the manager. “We played on an all-dirt field,” Bob reminisced. “I remember anticipating the next game. It seemed the day would never get there. I have loved baseball ever since.” In college, he played at Murray State under John Reagan. He credits Coach Reagan with leading by example, and “playing the game the right way – hard and aggressively, while being a good sport.” Bob Mantooth has undoubtedly followed in his mentor’s footsteps.
“Bob and I have been friends and brothers in Christ for some 30 years. He is truly an outstanding person, educator, and coach. During my tenure at Apollo, I always noticed that Bob placed the students at Apollo High School first, whether supporting them in the classroom or attending the various extracurricular activities the school offers. Bob is the type of coach parents wish for their child to play for. My wife and I were lucky enough to have our son Wesley play for Bob. Bob teaches more than the X’s and O’s of the game. One can look at the playing facilities and immediately notice the pride Bob has in the program. And this pride manifests itself in the student athletes who play baseball at Apollo High School throughout their careers and into adulthood.”
-Tom Purcell, retired AHS principal
Mantooth’s daughter, Kara, also loves baseball and still attends local games, as well as professional games while she travels for work. The Mantooth baseball tradition is being carried on by Ryne’s daughter, Tatum, who can be seen at the ball field wearing the same small jersey her father wore as a young spectator. When asked how he has managed to balance teaching, coaching and raising a family for thirty-nine years (he coached Webster County for his first seven), Bob credits the support of his wife, Sheree. “She believes as much as I do that this is what we are supposed to be doing with our lives.”
As Bob Mantooth’s 39th season comes to a close, he is often asked how much longer he will teach and coach. “I feel I will know when my time is up,” he said. And for this father figure on and off the field, that time hasn’t come yet.
“I have had the honor of knowing Coach Mantooth since 1987 when I was a 9th grader at Apollo. I have known him as a teacher, coach, mentor and co-worker. Coach has always been a gentleman. As a PE teacher, he was kind and tender-hearted towards the students. As a coach, he is a competitor and one that makes his players pay attention to the details. When I played basketball for him, I remember him teaching me about the appropriate ways to be dressed and the proper and improper ways of wearing a uniform. He was very concerned about teaching boys the proper way to become young men. As a mentor, I had the opportunity to coach and teach alongside of him. I have gained great insight and advice from him over the years. A very fine man. One I am proud to know. One I am proud to call a friend. One I am glad works with Apollo.”
-Keith Johnson, Apollo assistant basketball coach from 1995-2004