With no admission charge and a student spirit day, a large turnout was expected for Richmond Hill’s home baseball game against Effingham Friday night. Mickey Bayens, however, didn’t know the crowd was there to recognize him, too.
Bayens, the Region 2-AAAAAA athletic director of the year, was honored before the game — something everyone but him knew about up until that moment.
“I fell for that hook, line and sinker,” Bayens laughed afterward. “I had no idea.”
RHHS Principal Debi McNeal said having Bayens, who is also an assistant principal, on staff is a blessing.
“I don’t know if anyone loves kids as much as he does,” McNeal said. “He gets the job done, but you can hire a lot of people who just get the job done. He does so much more and puts in countless hours for our program.”
Bayens said he was surprised that the ceremony was kept a secret when so many people other than him knew about it.
“That’s Debi for you,” he said. “She’s a first-class person and anything she gets involved with is first class.”
Although Bayens knew he had won the award, McNeal said he tried to downplay it.
“He kept saying it was no big deal, but it is a big deal,” she said. “The turnout tonight really speaks to his character. A lot of people think very highly of him.”
Among those on hand to congratulate Bayens was Bryan County Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher, Board of Education President Eddie Warren, Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler, City Councilman Russ Carpenter — who also teaches at RHHS — Bryan County High School Principal Crystal Morales, Bryan County Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger and a slew of RHHS coaches.
Fowler presented Bayens with a proclamation recognizing his service and gave him a key to the city.
Bayens said being a good athletic director has nothing to do with wins and losses.
“It’s about listening to your coaches and doing everything you can to support them,” he said. “And it’s about listening to the student-athletes and giving them a voice so that they know their opinions matter.”
The St. Louis native is completing his 24th year in education, and has been at Richmond Hill High School for six years, the last four as athletic director.
“We’ve been down here since 1990,” he said. “Our three kids were raised here. This is home.”