Teaching the art of girls' softball play has filled years and years of Bennie Lee Hester's life at Thomson High School.
He readily admitted during a recent interview that he is pleased to have the opportunities to serve as an assistant softball coach at the school.
"My life was changed quite a bit by a telephone call I received from George Drake back in 1978," said Coach Hester. "He told me about a job that was coming open with the McDuffie County School System."
The job was as a paraprofessional working with handicapped students and serving as a bus driver.
At the time, Mr. Hester was employed as a mill worker at Thomson Oak Flooring.
Mr. Drake, who then was serving as principal of Thomson Elementary School, told Mr. Hester that he needed to go and apply for the position. Immediately, Mr. Hester followed his former coach's advice. And soon, he learned that he had landed the job.
"It was great how it all came about," said Mr. Hester, noting that the job later materialized into him becoming an assistant girls' softball coach, too, at Thomson High School. "I'll never forget what Coach Drake did for me."
This marks Coach Hester's 30th year in the classroom.
Coach Hester, as he is known by hundreds of current and former students at the school, started coaching the girls' junior varsity and varsity softball teams prior to the teams converting to fast-pitch style. For the past 22 years, he has served in that capacity.
The 53-year-old coach is one of two assistants under Head Coach Jason Osborn. The other assistant coach is Jason Brooks, who played youth baseball for Coach Hester. "You could say Jason and I go back a few years," said Coach Hester with a laugh.
"This year has been a lot of fun, because the varsity team accomplished so much," said Coach Hester.
One of two big accomplishments by the Lady Bulldogs was winning the sub-region championship for the first time ever. The other was advancing into the Class AAA State Softball Playoffs for the first time in school history.
"I was really proud of their accomplishments this season," said Coach Hester.
His philosophy about life coincides with what he has asked of his players through the years: "Work hard and get the best of life or the game."
Coach Hester, a 1972 graduate of Thomson High School, played baseball and basketball all four years. In baseball, he played first base and catcher and in basketball, he was point guard. Following graduation, he played semi-professional baseball with The Thomson Hornets from 1978 until 1990.
For a number of years, Coach Hester also served as a volunteer youth baseball coach with the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services.
"I've always loved being around kids and helping them in whatever they needed help doing," said Coach Hester.
He is married to Elease Jones Hester, an employee at Hoover Treated Wood Products, Inc., of Thomson. He also is a member of Stone Chapel CME Church in Mesena.