Influential sports supporter Roberts dies at 78

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The exact destination never seemed to matter when Tim Tadlock and his friends would jump on their bikes or in a coach’s car and head out to play or watch summer baseball in Denton.

Tadlock knew that no matter where they were headed, Ronnie Roberts would be there when he arrived, or turn up by the end of the night.

Roberts served as the president of Denton Boys Baseball for 13 years and was a coach in the league for 24 years.

His stewardship of the league was just one of the many ways Roberts contributed to the Denton sports community before his death on Saturday at the age of 78.

Roberts served on the Denton Parks and Recreation Board for six years and was also the president and vice president during his 34 years as a member of the Denton chapter of the Southwest Football Officials.

His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the First Baptist Church, 1100 Malone St. in Denton.

“What I remember about him is that when he was at the park, everyone knew him and that was where he wanted to be,” said Tadlock, now the head baseball coach at Texas Tech. “He was there mentoring the dads who were coaching teams and the players.

“He was the type of guy who wanted to give everything to that league and that community.”

Roberts led a Parks and Recreation Department bond election campaign that resulted in the opening of the Denia and North Lakes recreation centers. The Denton City Council named a baseball field at Mack Park — “Roberts Field” — in his honor.

Roberts played softball in addition to coaching baseball through the years. Dwayne “Catfish” Foster recalled one night at the park when he dove back into first base and knocked the legs out from under Roberts.

“He fell on top of me and laid there for a while,” Foster recalled Tuesday. “I asked him if he was ever going to let me up. He said he’d let me up when he was ready.”

Roberts was also a football official for 34 years. He officiated the 1989 Texas High School All-Star game among hundreds of other games through the years.

“Those were some of the most enjoyable football Friday nights that I ever spent,” said Gene Hartman, who was on the same officiating crew for several years. “Ronnie was always a pleasure to be around. He knew when to be serious and how to have a good time. He was a very ethical individual and a really good football official. He knew the rules and worked at it.”

While Roberts spent his Fridays in the fall officiating football, his passion was working with the Denton youth baseball league.

Tadlock, who went on to play at Hill College and Texas Tech, credited Roberts with running a highly organized league that produced several college and minor league players.

Billy Stinchcomb and Tim White both went on to play in the minor leagues after spending time developing their talent in the Denton baseball league during Roberts’ tenure.

“He made sure everything worked,” said Steve Selby, who coached American Legion baseball in Denton. “When you are in charge of a boys baseball league, you are in charge of equipment and trying to get sponsorships for all the different teams. It became quite a task for him to get all those people involved.”

Tadlock was among a few of the players and coaches who were part of the league at the time who said Roberts’ influence went beyond the organizational side of the league.

“He and his wife [Terry] were golden to the kids,” said Chris Wheeler, who played in the league. “They were always really nice and open to talk.”

Roberts contributed more than just his time to the league.

Hartman recalled always seeing Roberts’ car parked outside of his house.

“They didn’t have the luxury of having a garage to park their car in because it was full of baseballs, bats and mitts,” Hartman said. “That was their life, Ronnie and his wife. They were always together at the park. They were a pleasure to be around. Ronnie was one of the most influential people we have had in Denton in a good while.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com .


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