It was another sweltering July day in 2014 at Weatherford College. The V Tool Showcase season had concluded, but there was still plenty of activity with Summer baseball. I enjoy going back out to follow up on the teams that have played in our events and also to look at other teams for future events. It was DBAT Bonesio vs. Marucci Williams in the 2014 Diamond Kings World Series. I stumble across Tim Tadlock and congratulate him on making it to Omaha. We exchange small talk as we watch Kyle Muller pitch for DBAT. The talented lefty is facing a very physical Marucci lineup and it should be a great matchup. There are teams leaving, teams playing, and teams arriving. The stands are full of nervous parents wanting the best for their young men. I witness multiple college coaches braving the North Texas sun to get a look at a potential recruit that can help them get to their promised land. “Check out Skip,” Tadlock says. I glance down the first base line and see Skip Johnson, the Texas pitching coach, parked along the foul line fence in a hat that looks like it was designed in a joint effort from Wyatt Earp and Poncho Villa. Tadlock snickers and we continue assessing the talent on the field. How did it get to this? What has led the path of select baseball to playing at first class venues with 80+ teams from all around the country? My attention heads back to the field.
Next, it’s off to TCU to watch a former teammate of mine, Steve Arias, who coaches a very talented Dallas Tigers team. The names Gaither, King, Humphreys, and Johnson, already well known by Division 1 Schools, go through their pre-game rituals. I again stumble across Skip and Tadlock. If you don’t know, a 30-minute session with these two can not only educate you on the great game, but you are just as likely to become intimately familiar with the most elaborate deer blinds and duck calls. Skip makes reference to a man whose name I had never heard. Pat Rigby is described by Skip as the father of select baseball in North Texas. It’s very intriguing to me to hear more about this man that was instrumental in the development of something that has been such a big part of my life. My life in DFW select baseball DFW began in 2002. My family had moved to Keller from Corpus Christi. We sought out the best opportunities for our three young boys to play baseball in Dallas. A former teammate of mine, Shayne Currin, got me hooked up with Sam Carpenter and the Dallas Mustangs. Sam and Shayne gave me my first coaching opportunity in the select world with a 14U team that would eventually have six professional players on it. To my knowledge, Sam Carpenter had been the King Pin of select baseball in DFW — he is quick to point out otherwise.
“Pat Rigby does not get the credit he deserves for what he did for young baseball players,” Carpenter says. “His passion for the game and in assisting young men is how we have gotten to where we are today.”
Rigby was native of Grand Prairie, Texas. He began playing in a men’s league when he was 14-years old. The path would lead him to Austin where he became a first-team All-American at the University of Texas and led the Horns to back-to-back World Series berths in 1961 & 1962. He played four years in the Chicago White Sox organization. In 2006, he was inducted into the Texas Men’s Hall of Honor. These are all accomplishments baseball players would consider as a complete career. However, Pat Rigby’s impact on the game carried long past his playing days with the White Sox. In the early 1980’s, Pat and Folsom Bell put together a 14-year-old team to play in the tradition rich BBI League. At the time, BBI did not extend past 16U, and with American Legion Ball starting to fade, there were few opportunities for 17 & 18-year old baseball players. They took the name “Mustangs” from a team that had played in BBI in the 50’s & 60’s and hence, select baseball was born in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Pat’s eye for talent was unparalleled”, says Carpenter. “He could not only spot the talent, but he could see inside of a kid and judge his makeup.”
Rigby found an unheralded shortstop in East Texas named Tim Harkrider. Other guys like Calvin Murray and Todd Van Poppell would help them get to Farmington for the Connie Mack World Series five straight years and win it in 1990. 25 years later, his legacy remains as thousands of young players strive to play a daunting summer schedule to get to play at the next level.
During the process of investigating the origins of the select world, I hear the great stories that are normally associated with great men inside this game. Pat was a tremendous story teller.
“Everybody loved to see Rigby coming.” says Carpenter. “He knew the best places to eat, people wanted to hear him speak as he was meticulous and a perfectionist in everything he did.”
Skip Johnson tells the story of Rigby’s analysis on Major Leaguer Chris Holt.
“Chris hit 92 on my gun,” Rigby told Johnson. “Nolan Ryan only throws 90 on my gun.”
Rigby always had a unique but powerful and creative way of delivering a message about a young prospect. Rigby’s love of the game was always prevalent. Richard Holt, Chris’ father and another patriarch of youth baseball in North Texas, told me that Pat would take the trolley from Grand Prairie to old Burnett Field to watch the Dallas Eagles as a kid. From the time that he could get around on his own, he was about baseball all the time. Shayne Currin tells another story about he asked to sit out one game in an 80-game season and it was the worst mistake he ever made around the diamond.
“I was just looking to take a break from catching.” Currin says. “I thought, what’s one game in 80? He quickly reminded me that playing the game was a privilege. I never even considered that again at any level.”
Pat Rigby passed away in 1997 at the age of 56. Those 56 years were spent building something that he loved. He built a legacy about how baseball should be played. He watched it, played it, scouted it, coached it, but most of all, he lived it. He shaped select baseball in Dallas-Fort Worth. There is no doubt Pat Rigby is a major reason that North Texas is a hotbed of baseball talent. His impact will be felt 56 years from his passing.
V Tool Showcases will name the MVP award in honor of Pat Rigby. The award will be given to the player that exhibits the skills, commitment, work ethic and drive that Pat sought and found in so many players.
Special thanks to Sam Carpenter, Jack Sharp, Shayne Currin, Richard Holt and Skip Johnson for enlightening me on why this game is great in North Texas.