He grew up in Nashville and was a hard-throwing pitcher/infielder at Cohn High School. So why did he switch to catcher and first base for the Bisons? We spoke recently with Jim Minnick, a right-handed slugger who split up his baseball career with an overseas stint. We learned a lot about why he changed positions, how he met his wife, whom he considered his favorite professors, and why he came to Lipscomb.
What years did you compete for Lipscomb?
I played baseball for Coach Ken Dugan my freshman year, 1966, before going into the service in Vietnam for two years. Then I returned and finished playing from 1969-71. Gary Davis was an assistant, and Roy Pardue was an incredible pitching coach.
I loved playing at Onion Dell – it was a great place to play – but honestly, I liked to play “away” games better because other fields had fences. I was right-handed, and Onion Dell had only a fence in right field. I hit a lot of balls to left and center that rolled for days ... or the outfielders just backed up to the Science Building and caught them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Onion Dell, the home field for Bison Baseball prior to Dugan Field, was located where the Ezell Center currently sits. The third base line ran parallel to Belmont Boulevard.
What teammate was most memorable, and why?
Ronnie Albright and I were teammates and good friends, and we did a lot of things together. After we graduated we went to work together painting homes. We had done it in the summer time, so we made it a business for about three years and continued to play ball and stay friends. After that he went to work at Red Cap and I worked for Yellow Freight, so we still got to stay in touch when our companies used each other for business.
What degree did you earn?
I earned a B.S. in Education from Lipscomb, but I never went to work as a teacher. I got started in the trucking industry for Yellow Freight and made a 28-year career out of it.
Why did you attend Lipscomb?
One of my friends from high school, Farrell Owens, got me interested in Lipscomb. He was three years ahead of me in school at Cohn, and I knew him and his father well.
Several other factors made Lipscomb attractive to me. I liked the size – I wanted to go to a smaller school – and I liked the fact that it had a Church of Christ influence. Coach Dugan talked to me and said, “You’ll play ball. Your freshman year, you’ll play.” To me, that was a good recruiting pitch, and he was right – I did play my freshman year.
What is your favorite athletic memory at Lipscomb?
I have a lot, but two memories stick out in my mind: First, I led the team in batting my freshman year with a .371 batting average, which was a big thrill for a local boy. In high school I pitched and played infield, but I never played catcher. But when I got here, the infield was locked down and nobody was cracking that lineup. I suppose they wanted to get my bat in the lineup, so the coaches and Mel Brown – the existing catcher – helped teach me how to catch. I can’t say enough about how well Mel treated me – he showed me a whole lot about character and teamwork. And I suppose I can take partial credit for jump-starting his coaching career by being his first “student.” After my freshman year I went into the service for two years and messed up my legs. When I returned, I had knee surgery and moved to first base for my last three years.
My favorite memory, however, was going to the 1971 College World Series – Lipscomb’s first trip. That team was known as “The Miracle Bisons” and I’ll never forget them.
Who influenced your athletic career at Lipscomb?
Farrell Owens was probably my biggest influence on the team. He was a senior my freshman year, so I got to play with him one good year. Coach Dugan was a strong influence on all of us. He and I somehow enjoyed a special bond strong enough that he served as Best Man at my wedding. He and I were close, and he also had a connection with my wife, Emily Hassey Minnick, and her family. Her father ran the Student Center and the Mail Room on campus, and everyone liked him, including Coach Dugan.
What’s your favorite non-athletic memory from your time here?
It was the 1970 Spring Break, and the baseball team was in DeLand, Florida. I was playing my junior season, and Emily was there on Spring Break with some friends. I met her in the Student Center at Stetson University between games, and we started talking and hit it off. The rest, as they say, is history.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned in your time at Lipscomb?
The best lesson I learned in my time on campus: no matter how bad a day you had – playing ball, going to school, or in life – your team always has your back.
Second, Coach Dugan’s quote to us was always, “You’re better than the one on the mound.” He wanted us to realize that just because a pitcher got us once ... maybe even twice ... we would eventually get him. Coach Dugan instilled the confidence in us to bounce back because at the end of the day he believed we were better than our opponents and we would win.
Who were your favorite professors?
Those I remember best were Tom Hanvey and James Ward. Coach Hanvey taught a tough class, Kinesiology, but he was so good we tried extra hard just for him. I had Dr. Ward for several Physical Education and Health classes, and he made learning a lot of fun. Both of those guys were always there for students. Any time you wanted to ask them something, their doors were always open.
What do you do now?
I retired in 2011 after a career with Yellow Freight. I started as a city desk dispatcher for my first ten years, and I served as a supervisor for eighteen more years.
Tell us about your family:
Emily and I have been married 48 years, and we have two daughters: Dana and Brenda. Brenda has two children, and we are very proud grandparents.
- Favorite food: Peanut butter
- Favorite TV show or movie: The Avengers and Star Wars
- Favorite scripture: Isaiah 41:13 – “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
- Favorite sports teams: Alabama football
- Pet peeve: Not returning lids to jars
- Person I most admire: My father, Jay, who passed away in 2000
- Favorite season: Spring
- Pick one – salad or dessert: Salad
- Dream vacation spot: Costa Rica
- Early morning or late night person? Late night – working night shift for 18 years trained me for life.
You can reach Jim by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org