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Hoffpauir enjoys work with recreation

VIDALIA — Johnny Lee Hoffpauir might not be making a scene arguing with umpires anymore, but that hasn’t kept him away from baseball fields altogether.

The former Vidalia High School baseball coach has found a new calling as park and recreation director for the new Vidalia recreation complex. As recreation director, Hoffpauir is helping to design and promote the complex’s new baseball fields, as well as soccer fields and tennis and basketball courts.

“I love this. It’s something different,” Hoffpauir said. “Every day is a new challenge. Something comes up every day that you have to deal with, but I wake up every morning looking forward to work.”

And designing baseball fields is not something that’s without precedent. Hoffpauir said he had a knack for coming up with ballparks when he was a child.

“When I was a kid, I remember I would draw ballparks,” Hoffpauir said. “I would make my back yard into a ballpark. Throughout the years, because of my involvement (with baseball), I’ve probably seen hundreds of ballparks.

“I don’t just look at the fields, I look at the whole area. This has been a dream come true.”

The complex will feature 12 tennis courts, three basketball courts, three regulation soccer fields, four baseball and four softball fields, along with restrooms, concession stands and shower facilities, all split between two quads.

“We’re still expanding,” Hoffpauir said. “When the contractors leave, we’ll still be doing stuff.”

And the work is something Hoffpauir takes pride in.

“I’m really proud of each field. Each one has its own unique feature,” Hoffpauir said. “It’s a big undertaking, taking care of and promoting all these fields, but I’m looking forward to the promoting aspect.”

Even though he’s retired from coaching baseball, Hoffpauir said he’s gotten offers to coach again.

“I’ve had a couple of offers since I retired, but I’m doing what I like,” Hoffpauir said. “Heck, my son (Josh Hoffpauir) offered me a job at Pearl River (Community College), so he must have been feeling sorry for me.”

Hoffpauir admitted he doesn’t keep up with Vidalia High School baseball anymore, though he does have a good relationship with Vikings head coach Kale Davis.

“I kind of left with a bad taste in my mouth, but I still pull for them,” Hoffpauir said. “Those are my kids, and I loved coaching them and teaching them. Vidalia High has great kids — that’s why I stayed as long as I did.”

Hoffpauir also said he definitely doesn’t miss getting tossed out of games.

“I probably got thrown out enough, but that’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m not sending the youth of America to hell because I’m getting into an argument with an umpire. That’s just part of the competitiveness.”

With a new recreation complex coming for the youth of Vidalia, Hoffpauir said the upgrades would serve the community well.

“The old facilities were 50-plus years old, and it’s time to move forward,” Hoffpauir said. “Luckily, the town and the recreation board felt like it was time to improve.”

The complex will also help draw in people from out of town who will choose to play tournaments in Vidalia, Hoffpauir said.

“Economically, it’s going to help. People will come in town and spend money. I’m glad we’re putting our finances toward something like this,” he said.