HARKER HEIGHTS — Glenn Cunningham had no idea why a crowd had gathered behind the Harker Heights dugout 30 minutes before the Knights’ game against Shoemaker on Tuesday.
“I saw a lot of people that I hadn’t seen, and I thought, ‘Who is throwing out the first pitch?’” Cunningham said.
Unbeknownst to Cunningham, the mass of former players and friends were in town to commemorate his 500th win as a head coach, which he earned last season and which Heights celebrated with a ceremony before the Knights’ 4-0 win Tuesday.
“(Cunningham) goes, ‘There’s a lot of people here tonight,’” said Randy Culp, a Heights assistant coach and former player for Cunningham. “And he goes, ‘It must be somebody important.’ And I’m just thinking, ‘That’s right, man, they’re coming for you.’
“He has just touched so many lives it’s incredible.”
Cunningham, who played baseball and football at Killeen, began his head coaching career at Ellison in 1984, where he coached until 1994. Then he moved on to Graham, leading the Steers to the playoffs in nine of 11 seasons.
He returned to Killeen ISD in 2005 and has since coached the Knights as an assistant in football and the head coach in baseball.
The ceremony Tuesday saw former player Jerry Bark present him with a plaque from Mayor Rob Robinson proclaiming the day Glenn Cunningham Day.
Next, the Class of 2013 seniors presented him with a second plaque commemorating his 500 wins.
Finally, Heights principal David Manley presented Cunningham with a signed baseball to complete what was a special evening before the first pitch was even thrown.
“There were a lot of good friends, a lot of good people that I’ve been associated with probably since I’ve been in high school,” Cunningham said. “A lot of good people, a lot of good friends, so it made it special.”
But for former players like Culp and Bark, who said he rearranged his schedule to be in attendance Tuesday, what remains special for them is what Cunningham brought to their lives.
And the throng of supporters Tuesday showed just a sampling of how many people that includes.
“It just shows you how important he was in many people’s lives,” Bark said. “He’s just good family.”