Former Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle receives congratulations in 2012 when he was honored for his years of service to the school and to the baseball program. Carlisle, who died Wednesday morning at the age of 65, won 571 games in 29 years as the school’s baseball coach. He had the baseball field named in his honor in 2012. Photo by: Dispatch File Photo
December 6, 2018 10:10:09 AM
Genuine. Humorous. Passionate. Driven. Champion.
Those are just some of the words officials, coaches, and friends used Wednesday to describe former Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle, who died Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
"As the current coach at Starkville High School, it's all about returning to the high standard Danny Carlisle set with the program," Starkville High baseball coach Luke Adkins said. "We play home games on a field named in his honor. That is a distinction that means a lot. Our job is to get the program back to competing for championships like it did consistently under coach.
"All day today, people have been telling stories. He is the father of baseball in Starkville. He coached so many players, so there family connections everywhere. The common theme from those stories centers around him being a father figure. It's not as much about what he taught players on the baseball field, as much as what he did to impact lives and to help turn young men into adults."
Carlisle had a record of 571-252 in 29 years as baseball coach at Starkville High. He spent more than 30 years as an educator before officially retiring from teaching and coaching at the end of the 2011 season. Working as a part-time employee, Carlisle was allowed to return to coach the Starkville High baseball team in 2012. In March 2012, Starkville honored its longtime coach with Danny Carlisle Day.
Carlisle, a 1971 graduate of Starkville High who went on to earn a degree from Mississippi State, led the school's baseball program to Class 5A State titles in 1986, 1987, and 1991. The Clarion-Ledger named Carlisle its coach of the year in 1986 and 1991. Carlisle had his No. 24 retired in his final season.
"The first time meeting him as coach at Columbus I remember just how genuine of a guy he was," said former Columbus High baseball coach Jeffrey Cook. "You could just tell he was a sincere guy who cared about his program and cared about his players. He became a really good friend."
Cook said he stayed in contact with Carlisle after he left the Golden Triangle and moved to New Albany. He said he and Carlisle always were competitors on the field but remained friends off the field. Cook recalls plenty of good battles in his tenure, which coincided with some of the best years in the program's history.
"He was a legend," Cook said. "It was fun for us at Columbus to meet that challenge to beat Starkville. He is definitely going to be missed. When I heard the news this afternoon it hit me pretty hard because he was one of the guys when I first came to Columbus who was very friendly to us and our family. You just knew he was a coach like me and that he wanted to include a family atmosphere in his program. That meant a lot for me to be close to a coach who had been in the business for so long and was doing it the right way."
Cook said Carlisle believed in his kids so much, which explains why the Yellow Jackets played so hard for their coach.
Longtime baseball coach Stacy Hester, who is now the head coach at Central Hinds Academy, agreed with Cook. He, too, had plenty of stories about Carlisle from their years of battles in public school baseball. Hester praised Carlisle for helping him make his initial adjustment from private school to New Hope High.
"The thing about Danny I always remembered was his success," Hester said. "He had a lot of his successes before I got to New Hope. He was pretty sharp with some of the things he would say to kids to motivate them, and at the end of the day that is what we do.
"He knew the rules so well. I always felt like when he argued with the umpire I had to go argue with the umpires. He intimidated umpires because he knew the rules so well. Danny would hold his cool and make them feel like idiots because he would go over the rules a lot of time in that cool manner and he would get some things changed. Every time Danny would argue a call I would be right there to get my jab in because I didn't want the umpires to change the course of a game."
Hester said he and Carlisle always got along despite the rumors they weren't friends. He said he respected Carlisle's work and "common sense" approach to coaching. Hester said he felt Carlisle could have won a lot more games if he would have stayed healthy
"He had a way of talking to the kids and motivating them with terminology and a way of talking. He always a really a good talker," Hester said. "He was a very humorous guy, but when it came to the game he was all in into it.
"He was a good guy. He was a guy I could always talk to and ask him about baseball rules and questions. I kind of looked up to him because of his success before I got to the public schools. I looked up to Danny and Larry Harmon at Tupelo. ... When you thought of Starkville, even though they had decent coaches before him, you thought of Danny Carlisle. ... I think Danny is definitely so thankful they named the field after him. He did a good job raising money and doing what he had to do. He fought and clawed and did what he had to do to get the program where it is. Danny is synonymous with the Starkville High baseball program now."
New Hope baseball coach Lee Boyd's team eliminated Starkville in Carlisle's final season. Like Hester, he said Carlisle will be remembered for helping to put Starkville High baseball on the map.
"You always knew Starkville was going to be a tough, hard-nosed team that was going to compete hard," Boyd said. "He always had a competitive team and he always had a smile on his face and he was always telling jokes. You could tell coach Carlisle enjoyed his job.
"You could tell he was a special person in Starkville. He spent so much time building a program. He always had a competitive team and always won a lot of games. If you have a day named in your honor and all of those players show up, you know you impacted the school."
Information about funeral arrangements wasn't available at press time.
Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters contributed to this report.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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