Re­mem­ber­ing Mike Hipps

Com­mu­nity Coach re­mem­bered af­ter sudden death

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL STOVALL gsto­vall@cov­

This was ab­so­lutely fit­ting. To see his son on the mound and to pitch so well, and all of this. Mike would prob­a­bly be laugh­ing and telling us all to go home right now be­cause he just wouldn’t want this kind of spot­light. He did what he did out of a heart for oth­ers. It wasn’t re­ally about him­self..” — Ryan Ralston, Eastside base­ball booster club pres­i­dent

Diane Hipps be­gan to talk about what it meant for her to see the kind of sup­port the New­ton County com­mu­nity — and in par­tic­u­lar, Eastside High’s base­ball team — showed last Wed­nes­day af­ter the rather sudden death of her hus­band Mike Hipps.

“It’s just in­de­scrib­able,” Diane Hipps said. “There’s just no words. The sup­port that ev­ery­one has showed, it’s …”

And then her voice broke. Her eyes be­gan to well up with tears. Although the emo­tions of the mo­ment robbed her of a voice to speak on it, her de­meanor, and the en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing her in the af­ter­math of a base­ball game that had lit­tle to do with the score­board re­sult, said it all.

Af­ter Eastside’s 17-1 win over Henry County — a game where Michael Hipps, Mike and Diane’s son, pitched in tribute — peo­ple didn’t want to leave. The packed-to-ca­pac­ity base­ball sta­dium was filled with folks don­ning the green shirts with the yel­low hash­tag state­ment of sup­port #One4Seven. They were still com­ing up to Diane to give her hugs, of­fer con­do­lences and promise gen­uine, heart­felt prayers.

They were still hug­ging each other — peo­ple who have been touched or im­pacted by Mike Hipps’ life “over the last 40 years,” as Eastside base­ball booster club pres­i­dent Ryan Ralston put it.

“You’ve got so many peo­ple out here say­ing, ‘Mike coached my son 20 years ago,’” Ralston said. “My son Ri­ley grew up play­ing for Mike Hipps. Our fam­ily has been friends with the Hipps fam­ily for years, and we just knew that we needed to find a way to give back, not only for the base­ball com­mu­nity for this huge loss, but to just unify our en­tire pro­gram and get every­body to­gether to share fond mem­o­ries of Mr. Mike.”

Ralston called Mike Hipps a one-of-a-kind in­di­vid­ual. One who al­ways had a smile, al­ways had a joke to crack and al­ways dis­played the love in his heart for the kids of New­ton County.

“They broke the mold with Mike Hipps,” Ralston said. “There’s only one Mike Hipps. You never saw mike with­out a smile on his face. He ded­i­cated him­self to the kids of New­ton County for over 40 years. Whether coach­ing them, or when He owned a skat­ing rink and let kids get in who couldn’t af­ford to pay. His life touched so many lives, as you can see.”

Eastside prin­ci­pal Jeff Cher said that while Hipps had been a part of the com­mu­nity for much longer than he had, it didn’t take long to find out how spe­cial he was to Cov­ing­ton and New­ton County.

“What you see out here, this show­ing of sup­port, it reaf­firms what we try to do every day to build com­mu­nity,” Cher said. “You’ve got stu­dents, par­ents, fam­ily, alumni and coaches who are all in­ter­twin­ing their lives, try­ing to make our world a lit­tle bet­ter place. This con­firms that all that we still have is alive and well. In events like these, you get a glimpse of the depth of our re­la­tion­ships and the im­pact peo­ple have on each other.”

For Michael Hipps, the im­pact of his dad’s life was so strong that he wouldn’t have thought of com­mem­o­rat­ing his life in any other way than turn­ing in a near flaw­less per­for­mance on the pitch­ing mound.

And doing it in front of hun­dreds of fans wear­ing shirts that showed spe­cific sup­port for Michael who wears the No. 7 jersey was the ic­ing on the cake.

“It meant a lot to see all of this,” Michael Hipps said. “It’s a lot of lov­ing and sup­port­ing peo­ple around the county. And here, my base­ball team is like a sec­ond fam­ily.”

Hipps passed away last Saturday morn­ing af­ter sud­denly feeling ill the Fri­day night be­fore.

“Fri­day night he was kind of feeling weird,” Mi- chael Hipps said. “Then Saturday morn­ing, he passed away. It was quick and out of nowhere re­ally.”

Al­most as quick was the com­mu­nity’s sup­port and the de­ci­sion that some­thing must be done to rally be­hind the Hipps fam­ily.

“Every base­ball pro­gram from Al­covy to New­ton, travel base­ball teams and rec teams, the theme was the same,” Ralston said. “Ev­ery­one was ask­ing: ‘How can we help?’ So (last) Saturday when we found out Mike passed away, we sat and thought real hard about this, and this was the tribute we came up with.”

Ac­cord­ing to Diane Hipps, it was the great­est sort of “send off” for her hus­band.

“Oh it was per­fect,” she said. “It was just per­fect. They couldn’t have paid a bet­ter tribute to Mike.”

Not one for a bunch of at­ten­tion, Ralston said he could imag­ine how Mike would re­act if he were there to see it.

“This was ab­so­lutely fit­ting,” he said. “To see his son on the mound and to pitch so well, and all of this. Mike would prob­a­bly be laugh­ing and telling us all to go home right now be­cause he just wouldn’t want this kind of spot­light. He did what he did out of a heart for oth­ers. It wasn’t re­ally about him­self.”

Submitted photo | The Cov­ing­ton News

The Eastside High base­ball team re­leases bal­loons be­fore Wed­nes­day’s home game against Henry County as a tribute to Mike Hipps, a longtime fix­ture in the New­ton County com­mu­nity who passed away last Saturday. Hipps’ son Michael is a se­nior pitcher on the team.

Gabriel Stovall | The Cov­ing­ton News

Diane Hipps, wife of the late Mike Hipps, stands with her son Michael Hipps af­ter last Wed­nes­day’s game against Henry County. Michael Hipps pitched the game in mem­ory of his fa­ther who passed away last week­end.

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