CHAPEL HILL — A veteran baseball coach will be honored by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association at its 2013 Annual Meeting with the NCHSAA’s A.J. “Tony” Simeon Courage Award.
Mike Ray of Hoke County High School will be presented a Courage Award at the Smith Center on Thursday, May 2.
The Courage Awards are designed to honor individuals who, despite adversity, have demonstrated exemplary character and performance and, as a result, have been an inspiration to all those involved with the programs of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. They are named in honor of NCHSAA Hall of Famer Tony Simeon, a long-time coach at High Point Central.
Ray, who is an exceptional children’s teacher at Hoke County, developed a limp a couple of years ago that he attributed to “old age and a bad knee.” But when it began to worsen, he had it checked and it was diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has had to coach from the dugout this season using a walker.
Ray grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and attended the University of Kentucky before completing his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. An Army veteran of 22 years, Ray served in Desert Storm and then retired in 1999 from the armed services and starting teaching and coaching at Hoke. He became the head baseball coach in 2008.
Athletic director Gary Brigman says of his baseball coach, “What is so amazing is that Mike gets prepared for school every day, he is never late and has not missed a complete day of work, even when he has to go to his doctor. I have not seen a depressed day from him and it is amazing.”
Brigman also noted that support, not just from the Hoke County team and fans, but from opposing teams and coaches, has been amazing. The baseball coaches in the conference have started a campaign to fight ALS and each time Hoke plays a conference opponent on the road, a check has been presented in honor of coach Ray to fight ALS.
“Coach Ray is truly inspirational and exemplifies what is great about high school athletics,” said Davis Whitfield, commissioner of the NCHSAA.