March 19, 1996
I suspect Hector Tovar is feeling a little overwhelmed these days by the vast amount of recognition he's receiving. The rest of us believe it's little enough for the man's 40 years of dedicated service to the young people of this community. Why aren't there more Hector Tovars? We could use a few, but, in the final analysis, the reality is that there are no others quite like him to be found.
Right now Hector is fighting a serious illness. As word of his problem spreads, he has received a great outpouring of love and support from perhaps hundreds of young people and adults whose lives he has touched.
Still more honors are being heaped on the 69-year-old retired coach and Safety meat cutter. The complex of five ball fields (two baseball, three softball) east of Perry Stadium will be named in Hector's honor. Henceforth it is to be known as the "Hector Tovar Ballpark Complex." All of this is to reward a man who has had a positive influence on perhaps more Perry youngsters than any other private citizen in this city's almost 103 years of existence. His former players, their parents and coaches in the Perry school system will readily attest to that assessment.
And you will have a chance to show your own appreciation of Hector's labors next Saturday afternoon. The Perry school board voted earlier this month to accept the Perry Diamond Club's recommendation that Perry's annual spring high school baseball tournament be known officially as the "Hector Tovar Invitational Tournament." This year's tournament starts next Thursday at Ripley Field, which was dedicated last year to Joe Ripley, another sports icon in this community.
At 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, prior to the final game of the tournament, a special ceremony will be held to honor Hector. Many former players and out of town visitors are expected. All of us are invited to be there and join in this tribute to a very deserving person, a real pillar of our little prairie city.
John Klein has written a fitting tribute to Hector, and , you probably read it in a Perry Journal article earlier this month. John is associated sports editor and a columnist with the Tulsa World and a 1972 graduate of Perry high school. He played baseball as one of "Hector's kids." I'll not try to repeat John's very interesting account, but there are a-few more things to say.
Baseball was not Hector's only love. According to former PHS wrestling coach Leonard Shelton, Tovar is largely responsible for maintaining the successful continuity in Perry's highly regarded championship wrestling program. "Hector worked with pee-wee wrestlers in the early 1960s when Rex Edgar was the head coach," Shelton recalls. "He had to use makeshift facilities in the old high school basement because there was no room for his kids. No person has had as much to do with the success of Perry athletes as Hector Tovar," Shelton says. Tovar also coached youngsters in the Perry grade school football program. His successful record as a coach in three major sports is unparalleled.
Hector and his wife, the former Virginia Terronez, have three sons, David, Mark and Roger, and two daughters, Gloria and Rita. Tovar had the unique pleasure of coaching the three boys but Gloria and Rita also got in the act, serving as scorekeepers. He also coached two grandsons, Desi and Randall Stoops, in little league baseball.
Hector grew up in a gritty district of El Paso, Texas, and played shortstop on a semi-pro team that competed in the Double-A league across the border in Mexico. When he and Virginia settled in Perry to begin raising a family, he took a job as meat cutter in the Safeway store and spent 32 years there before retiring in December 1985. Even in that job Hector found a way to help young people. For 25 years he assisted many Noble county 4-H meat judging teams to get them ready for district and state competition. He spent 18 years in the Perry national guard unit of the 45th Infantry, including service with the 179th regiment in Korea.
One of Hector's former baseball players is Verl Brorsen. "Hector is a fiery competitor who doesn't like to lose," Verl says. "Even though he was hard on his players, nothing made a boy's chest stick out further than praise from him for doing it right."
Hector himself sums it up this way: "The kids gave a lot of respect. They called me 'coach' or 'Mr. Tovar.' You teach kids discipline, they will do anything for you. We made the players run -- exercising those legs. I told them, 'When you hit a single, I want a double.' When you run, everything gets lubricated. When the kids step on the field, they're mine."
Tovar, an avid fan of the New York Yankees, began coaching pee-wee baseball in 1958 as an assistant to Lloyd Grim with the 10-&-under DX team. As a head coach he told the youngsters it was "my way or the highway," and he often spoke of "turning in your uniform." However, he remembers that only one player ever quit. He came back, but not until his teammates gave him permission. Hector taught his players valuable lessons for life and he is proud that his players are now good family men, still respect him, and still check on him.
His 1965 10-&-under Jersey Queen Tigers were perhaps his best team. They finished the year with an incredible unblemished 64-0 record and a state championship at the AAU tournament in Enid. Keith Henry pitched a no-hitter to beat Ponca City in the finals. Arkansas City, the Kansas state champions, challenged the Perry team to a game in Ponca City. Hector recalls that Steve Lloyd pitched a no-hitter and hit a homerun to score the game's only run for a 1-0 Perry victory, even with a cast on one foot.
So thanks, Hector, for a lifetime of service to the young people of this community, your adopted hometown. You are definitely one of the good guys.