Even in a 21-year major league baseball career that took him all over the country, Rick Honeycutt didn't forget where he came from. He never really left the Chattanooga area, in fact, as his primary residence.
Now beginning his ninth season as the Dodgers pitching coach in the glitzy world of Los Angeles, Honeycutt remains an area resident and benefactor. The former Lakeview High School and University of Tennessee baseball star and his wife, Debbie, not only brought up children Holli and Ricky locally but also have expended many hours and dollars in helping other area youngsters.
In recognition of his professional and community-service achievements, Honeycutt will receive the highest honor bestowed annually by the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, the Fred Gregg Jr. Award, at the organization's induction banquet March 3 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
The Gregg award goes "to an individual who has made major contributions to sports," according to a Hall of Fame release.
Because of spring training Honeycutt will not be present at the banquet, but he will be honored along with 18 inductees and the other special award winners: Wesley Cash, Andy Morgan, Ashlen Dewart, Carolyn Jackson, Warren Barger and Joe Smith.
Honeycutt has hosted a youth benefit golf tournament bearing his name for three decades and also has been involved with helping the Ronald McDonald House and cystic fibrosis research fundraising and with the 100-acre Heartland Therapeutic Riding ranch his wife oversees for special-needs children.
"We've made money in the tournament every year," Leonard Fant, director of the golf event, said in the release. "We estimated this past year we had raised $600,000-700,000. Rick has been a tremendous citizen of our area."
A slugging first baseman in addition to pitching, Honeycutt was All-SEC for the Vols in 1975 and 1976 and an All-American in 1976 and later was named to UT's all-century baseball team. Successful both as a starting pitcher and a reliever in his seven-team big-league career, he was an American League All-Star in 1980 and 1983, leading the league in earned run average in '83.
He helped the Oakland Athletics win the World Series championship in 1989.
Since he became the Dodgers' pitching coach, they have had the best ERA in the major leagues and rank No. 2 in strikeouts and opponents' batting average. Last year they were second in the majors in ERA to the Atlanta Braves and second in strikeouts in the National League to Cincinnati, and Clayton Kershaw received the NL Cy Young Award for the second time in three years.
Tickets for the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame dinner, which begins at 6:30 that Monday, are $35 and available through organization president John Farr at 423-875-9282. The deadline is Thursday.
The induction class includes Tracy Bleil, Reggie Gaddis, Danny Gilbert, Mark Guhne, Ellen Kovacevich Hanna, Norman Hofferman, Andy Kelly, Larry Knight, Stewart Lawwill, Tommy Layne, Robert Long, Mack McCarthy, Gary McIntyre, Cathy Ryals, Hugh Walker, Karen and Ralph Weekly, Mark Wiedmer and Trei Wild. Short biographies of each can be seen at www.timesfreepress.com.
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