Baynes will be inducted into 2013 class ASHOF
by ERICH HILKERT
Ronnie Baynes’ parents both taught, so he decided to give teaching a try. He has spent several decades teaching athletes as a coach, while also upholding the rules of sports as an official. The Talladega native will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in May with the class of 2013.

“I had actually signed a pro football contract, but I had an injury and I couldn’t pass the physical,” Baynes said. “So, I went into teaching, coaching. Out of college, I did that for five years. My high school coach had become principal at the Alabama School for the Deaf in Talladega. He called me and offered me a job in administration there at the School for the Deaf. My parents were both deaf. Both my parents were teachers there at the School for the Deaf in Talladega, so I came back.”

While Baynes briefly made an exit from coaching, another sports opportunity came along in Anniston.

“I had a little bit of a calling back to the School for the Deaf to teach at the School for the Deaf,” Baynes said. “I came back and I got out of coaching and it was during that time that a guy named Glenn Hawkins, who was head of the officiating in Anniston, called me and asked me to come up and start being a football official. I very reluctantly agreed to do it. I told him I was going to do basketball and baseball because I had experience in that, but I didn’t have any experience in football officiating. So, he talked me into it. He told me he would mentor me, he would train me, teach me and I agreed to do it. That was 1971 and sure enough, I went up and started that year. The first ballgame I had was Oxford and Jacksonville playing in Oxford. I did it. I enjoyed it. I decided I wanted to pursue it, try to get good at it, work at it.”

He became so good at it, in fact, that he made a decades-long career out of it and is now a supervisor for new officials in the NFL.

Baynes was an SEC official for 13 years and an NFL official for 14 years, but when he felt he was approaching retirement, the NFL offered him a position off the field. This position put him in charge of all the scouting and recruiting and training of new officials.

Initially, the position required that he live in New York, but in recent years he was able to come back to his home state.

“I was able to move back to Birmingham and do that job from Birmingham. I still go to New York about once every other month, sometimes more just depending on what’s needed. I still go to New York a good bit. I still love New York, but I’m glad to be home. All my grandchildren live in the state of Alabama. So, it’s nice to be back and see them grow up and have a part in their life, too.”

Baynes is currently in his 12th year as an NFL officiating supervisor.

He must have taught his sons a thing or two about officiating because all three of his sons are also involved in officiating. His youngest son Allen Baynes is a side judge for the NFL. Of his twin sons, Rusty is a line judge for the NFL and Mark is a Conference USA umpire in college football.

Baynes said their shared profession always provides a common ground for conversation, but the women in their family set a time limit: one hour to discuss football before discussing ordinary topics of conversation.

Baynes has not forgotten his roots. He has fond memories of Talladega, where he not only began his career as an official, but also where he began his coaching career.

“I actually went back into coaching in 1973,” Baynes said. “I went back into coaching at Talladega High School. I went back and took a job coaching the ninth grade team there and I kept on officiating. In 1974, I went to Tallassee as a head coach and I didn’t want to give up officiating. So, I coached and officiated for the rest of my career.”

In Talladega, Baynes was an official in football, basketball and baseball, but once he went back in to coaching, he continued on with football as an official.

Before Baynes got into officiating and coaching, he was a four-year starter for the basketball and baseball team at Talladega High School. He started on the football team his senior year and was one of four who played at the collegiate level. Two of his teammates went to Alabama and Bear Bryant was interested in having Baynes play for the Crimson Tide, so why did he choose Auburn instead?

“I wanted to play more than one sport,” Baynes said. “Of the four, I had the least amount of experience playing football. Coach Bryant was okay with other sports, but he wanted you to prioritize football.”

Baynes believes he and his senior friends on the football team were fortunate to have attended Talladega High School.

“I came along at a great time in Talladega,” Baynes said. “We all came from a modest background. Through athletics, we were able to get a great education. We were exposed to outstanding teachers. The schools were great. We were prepared athletically and academically.”

It was Talladega head coach Norman Mosley who served as a mentor figure to Baynes during high school.

“He made football fun,” Baynes said. “We lived for sports.”

Baynes said being recognized by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame is an honor for which he is truly grateful.

“I think probably at my age—I’m getting on up there now—it’s kind of the exclamation point on a sports career that I’ve been God-blessed to have been associated with so many good people, so many teams, so many good players that I coached, just a lot of great things that have happened in sports,” he said. “I think this is kind of the exclamation point on all of that. It’s very humbling to think that what you did in sports or what you tried to do in sports is recognized as being somewhat worthy. Though I don’t claim to be near as worthy as a lot of these other guys, it’s still very much an honor for me and I’ll say this: nobody that’s ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame could be any more appreciative than I am of the recognition. I think it’s terrific.”

Baynes is especially excited to be inducted specifically into the 2013 class, because he feels connected to each of the inductees in some way.

“I’m excited about it, because this particular group of inductees—I don’t know them all personally, I know a lot of them personally—but I’ve had some sort of an affiliation with them either having been associated with them as a teammate of mine, like Forrest Blue, or having officiated for coach Saban,” Baynes said. “Having some sort of relationship with all of the current inductees that are coming in in this class makes it exciting. It’s also an opportunity for us to get our big family together. We have six kids, and we have 11 grandkids. I have a sister and a nephew that live there in Talladega. We’ll all get together and we’ll all make a weekend of it. It really is kind of an opportunity to be a tribute to this whole family, not just to me and I’m excited about that part of it. I’m sure the night of the ceremony I’ll be very excited. I’m sure I’ll be anxious to a certain extent, but I think the best way to describe it is I’ll be very grateful for the opportunity to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
© 2012