In the high school sports arena, there are participants and there are difference makers. Both are necessary components in a successful lineup. Unfortunately for some, one of the real difference-makers has taken his name off the lineup card.
For nearly four decades Mike Bartlett has been a fixture in the baseball coaching world. Guiding young men down the right path was always the focal point and the marks in the left-hand column were just a byproduct. Now, after much success, the man many have admired has decided it was time to step away from the game. Following Stewart’s Creek’s elimination last week from the class 4A state tournament he broke the news.
“Old-timers always told me I would know when it was time to hang it up and they were right”, says Bartlett. “I just seemed to have the feeling the time is right for me to let someone else take over this program.”
For the past nine seasons, the Arkansas native has been walking on water over at Stewart’s Creek. Building the program from scratch, Bartlett guided the Red Hawks to the State tournament on four occasions (2016, 2017, 2018, 2022) and finished as Class AAA state runner-up in 2017. The magnitude of that success is enormous, however, the fun-loving coach points to simpler things as his greatest success.
“Seeing the difference you make over time in a kid’s life by teaching them a game is the best result a coach can have”, says Bartlett. “I have met so many good people during my time as a baseball coach. The relationships and life lessons are the real rewards and those are the things I cherish the most.”
With his fungo now in the closet, Bartlett is not exactly sure what’s next other than continuing to serve as a teacher at Stewart’s Creek. The legacy he leaves behind is not something he ever considered. Simply doing the right thing every day for his staff and his players was his only concern.
“What people say about me is totally out of my control and I never really worried too much about it”, says Bartlett. “I just always wanted my product to speak for itself.”
The product Mike Bartlett produced did in fact speak for itself. Echoing success loud and clear, he will be remembered as one of the best Rutherford County has ever seen.