Sports has always played a big role in the life of Thomson's Gary Hinton.
The 56-year-old Hinton has been a player, coach and manager of men's softball team CSRA Express for the past 13 years. He managed another team for seven years before he founded the CSRA Express.
Because of his love, dedication and service to the United States Speciality Sports Association for the past two decades, Hinton recently was inducted into the Georgia USSSA Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony was Oct. 24 at Turner Lake near Covington. There, Bob Howard, the director of Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services, said Hinton was "most deserving" of the honor.
Howard, who also is a member of the Georgia USSSA Hall of Fame and serves as an assistant state director of USSSA, introduced Hinton to the estimated 250 people at the banquet.
Another USSSA official there who extended congratulations to Hinton was Georgia USSSA State Director Rusty Carter.
"I was real honored to have been inducted into the Georgia USSSA Hall of Fame," said Hinton during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror last Friday. "It's like I've really accomplished something in sports. It really meant a lot to me to have Bob and Rusty there, too, congratulating me. It was something that I will never forget."
Also attending the banquet was Hinton's wife, Cindy, his father-in-law, Bill Durham, of Dalton, and his friend, Ruby Smith. Mr. Durham is a member of the ASA Hall of Fame.
As manager and founder of the CSRA Express, Hinton has five players who started with him still playing for him. They are: Phillip Welch, Ross Rabun, Steven Usry, Pat Reese and Andy Johnson.
Hinton, a 1972 graduate of Thomson High School, has guided his men's Class C softball teams over the years to one national championship, three state championships and several runner-up titles in both of those categories.
"It's been a lot of fun," Hinton said of his years as a manager. "I'm going to keep doing this for about two more years and then maybe retire as a manager."
Aside from being manager of a men's softball team that has played well in some of the most prestigious tournaments available, Hinton also has been a USSSA umpire for the past 10 years.
He's not affiliated with his team when he's umpiring. The umpiring is all part of a side job that he enjoys almost as much as managing his softball team.
"I've enjoyed managing, and I've enjoyed umpiring," said Hinton. "I go and manage the team to the best of my ability. And I go out and umpire the same way. I call the game just the way I see it. That's the only way I know how."
Hinton is the owner of several businesses in Thomson. The job that has provided for him and his family through most of his years in business has been that of owner of Hinton's Paint and Body Shop, located off Anderson Road, near Thomson.
"I've owned and operated that business for the past 25 years," Hinton said. "It's provided me and my family with a good living over those years."
In recent years, he's also become a self-taught computer repairman and programmer.
"It's just something I picked up on several years ago and got pretty good at it, I guess you could say."
Learning those skills has landed him several jobs with USSSA, including building the Web site for East Georgia USSSA, eastgausssa.com. His computer business is known as Express Computer Solutions.
"I've taught myself just about everything I know about anything I've ever done in my life," he said.
When he was a young boy, Hinton enjoyed putting model cars and trucks together.
"It was just a hobby," he said. "I never knew that someday I'd be fixing cars and trucks for a living."
After graduating from Thomson High School, he had planned to attend the University of Georgia on an art scholarship to play football. During his freshman, sophomore and junior years at THS, Hinton had become a football and baseball star. He played quarterback and running back in football. In baseball, under coach Bruce Blasingame, he was star pitcher.
Just before his senior year, Hinton learned that his family was planning to move to Florida. Plans later changed when the move didn't happen. By that time, though, he had missed the opportunity to play the two sports he loved so much his senior year.
It never stopped him from loving sports, though. In fact, it was just the opposite.
"I'd say it drew me closer to sports," Hinton said.
Following graduation, he worked building prefabricated homes for Wilson Homes Inc. and later with Hughes Construction Co. -- both of which were in Thomson. He later became a millwright for five years at Georgia Power Co.'s Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. His work at Plant Vogtle made it possible for him to make enough money to open his own paint and body shop.
"Overall, I'm pretty proud of what I've been able to accomplish in my life," Hinton said.