Baseball carried Hill Denson down many roads

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From his hometown of Bay Springs to his induction into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Hill Denson followed his baseball dreams. In fact, Denson has been inducted into seven halls of fame. His dreams have spanned a five-decade career in the game, beginning in 1966 at Chamber­lain-Hunt Academy and con­cluding in 2019 at Belhaven University as head coach. Dur­ing his 33 years of coaching college baseball, he won over 1,000 games, including 468 games at Southern Mississippi and 613 games at Belhaven. He also had 216 wins in his high school coaching career at Callaway, Manhattan and Chamberlain-Hunt. More than official stats, Denson valued re­lationships forged with his players over the years. “I en­joyed everything about my baseball experience. I liked being around the kids – I even enjoyed the bus trips – but teaching those kids not only about baseball but also about things such as how to have good manners was important to me,” stated Denson.

Among Denson’s notable ac­complishments was Denson’s establishing USM as a nation­ally recognized baseball power. His 14-year leadership of the Golden Eagles included a dozen straight winning sea­sons and two NCAA tourna­ment appearances. “My thoughts were to build a pro­gram that our fans could take pride in. I wanted to produce good teams year in and year out, to the point that our peo­ple cared if we won or lost,” said Denson. Building a base­ball program from scratch in­volved more than coaching, however. Denson sold adver­tising and season tickets while doing plumbing, painting and janitorial work. The result was an increase in fan attendance led to the addition of the Right Field Roost and the renovation of Pete Taylor Park.

One former player who is particularly thankful for Den­son’s impact on his life as well as his dedication to USM’s baseball program is Fred Coo­ley. “He really sold USM baseball to the community and helped lead USM to being competitive with other major col­lege programs. Much of what you see at the stadium now is a product of his leader­ship and vision. It was an honor playing for him.”

In 1997 Denson left Southern Mississippi a changed culture. The program that had once re­lied mostly on family members of players to attend games grew under Denson into one that was ranked in the Top 20 nationally in attendance with an average of over 2,000 fans. During his tenure Denson was a two-time Metro Conference Coach of the Year while pro­ducing eight All-Americans and having 35 players sign pro­fessional contracts. Two years after his retirement, Denson was honored by having USM’s baseball field named after him.

After a stint in the athletic department at USM, Denson decided the coat and tie posi­tion was not for him. So he de­cided to return to his roots in Jackson to coach baseball at Belhaven. He was again suc­cessful as the Blazers’ program grew, and he led the school to their only NAIA World Series in 2010. He led the program to six conference championships.

“Mississippi is one of the best baseball playing states in the country from high school to junior college to senior col­lege, and I am glad I have had a small part in the growth of the sport,” stated Denson.

Denson is still involved in baseball as a site rep for the NCAA regionals and Super Re­gionals. He and his wife, Judy, play jam sessions on a regular basis in the Jackson area and have ventured recently into Hattiesburg. Denson plays the drums while Judy sings. Judy and Denson were married in 1968. Judy was a longtime TV personality in Jackson, Nashville and Hattiesburg. The couple has two daughters and two grandchildren.





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