Last year, Robert Little stepped away from coaching baseball to further his career in education.
It didn’t take long for Little to miss coaching, so when an opportunity arose to return to the game, he didn’t hesitate.
Little took over as head coach of Mooresville Post 66’s senior American Legion baseball team this season. The Moors are 7-5 overall and 2-3 in Area III play through June 22, with the area playoffs beginning July 1.
“I wanted to do Legion ball,” Little said. “That was one of the things I wanted to do before I got out of coaching altogether. I had just got out of coaching (at Lake Norman High) when (Post 66 officials) approached me, and we had a couple of meetings over the winter.
“When they started playing ballgames, I started to miss it then. The competition and being in the game. I didn’t miss it during the offseason at all. It’s during the games when it’s fun to be involved.”
Little is a 1990 South Iredell High graduate, and three-year player with Post 66. He who went on to play four years at Wingate and was Lake Norman High’s first baseball coach when the school opened for the 2001-2002 academic year.
In 13 seasons, Little led the Wildcats to 198 career wins, three conference titles (2009, 2011 and 2014) and eight state playoff appearances, including the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state championship in 2009.
But Little yearned for more.
He had earned his N.C. Department of Education administrator’s license in 2012, right after finishing his work at Gardner-Webb for a master’s degree in executive leadership. Two years later, Little was offered an assistant principal’s position at South Iredell High, leading to his departure from Lake Norman High and from coaching.
“I guess I looked at the game a little differently when I sat out,” Little said. “I understand it a little bit more, and I tend not to get as excited as I did when I was coaching it.
“I watched other coaches, and tried to take some of the things they were doing – right or wrong – and incorporate it into what I’m doing this year.”
The return to coaching also reunites Little with his son, Zach. The elder Little coached his son for three years at Lake Norman High, but became a spectator at the younger Little’s games his senior year.
Now, Robert Little gets to coach his son one more time before Zach heads to Wingate.
“I only missed two of his games” during Zach Little’s senior year at Lake Norman High, Robert Little said.
“I guess I’m a little more relaxed in American Legion ball than I was in high school. I’ve always said the high school season is like spring training – you play 24 or more games, and get in shape – because it’s during summer ball when kids blossom and have great years.”
The time away also gave Little a new outlook on the game, especially where American Legion ball is concerned.
“Being an assistant principal at South Iredell, it’s a small community with a big community atmosphere,” Little said. “That’s what American Legion ball is all about – you play for your community.
“Nothing against showcase ball, but they’re coming from all over to play for one team. In American Legion, this is your community. It’s exciting when you go into town, and people say ‘Hey, the team is doing pretty good.’ It’s your community.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at email@example.com.