MISSION — Family, friends and former players of legendary Pan American and University of Texas-Pan American coach Alfred Ogletree gathered to say goodbye to “Coach Al” on Monday morning as the pivotal figure in the baseball world was laid to rest at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission after 89 years of life.
Ogletree, who served as a Quartermaster Officer in the Army at Fort Hood in the 1950s, received a sendoff that reflected the life he lived — a life of love, passion and baseball.
Former players of Ogletree in attendance discussed the glory days spent in dugouts under the direction of the 40-year-collegiate coach who put Rio Grande Valley baseball on the map during his 29 years leading Pan American and UTPA from 1968 through 1997. He took the Broncs to the 1971 College World Series.
Jack Ewing, who was coached by Ogletree in 1974 and 1975 at Pan American, said he’s glad Coach Al is now reunited with his late wife Joann.
“It’s neat to see the legend and it’s neat to know him as a friend and mentor, and I’m going to miss him for sure, but it was time. God called him home and he’s now with Joann. It’s sad in one way, but it’s joyous on one hand — he’s healed and he’s with his wife,” Ewing said.
The morning began with the Hidalgo County Commissioner’s court issuing a proclamation in honor of Coach Al’s life and “years of service to the US, his exceptional years of coaching, and for his devotion towards teaching the sport of baseball.”
Soon after, the church service was held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen where local high school coaches from Sharyland, PSJA and Edinburg school districts were present to pay their respects.
Sharyland High coach Barton Bickerton, who played for Ogletree at UTPA from 1990-1992, received regular phone calls from Coach Al anytime his Rattlers had a good game. It was that care and love for his former players, family and friends that was returned as it was time to say goodbye to the coaching legend.
“You get to see a lot of local legends. Some guys I haven’t seen in about 20 years, and it says a lot about the man and the people who showed up and supported him. When you’re that kind of person and you care for people, they’re going to give you that back in the end,” Bickerton said.
That, perhaps, is what mattered most to Ogletree. He kept memorabilia from his coaching days up until he died, and took pride in the young men he coached, 23 of which were selected in the Major League Baseball draft, and 175 players who went on to become baseball coaches at different levels.
Ogletree, who compiled a career record of 1,084-618-1, was inducted into nine Halls of Fame for his work on the diamond: the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Texas A&M University Hall of Fame, the University of Dallas Hall of Fame, the Sul Ross State University Hall of Honor, the University of Texas-Pan American Hall of Fame, the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame, the Austin High School Hall of Honor and the Central Texas Semi-Pro Hall of Fame.
Al and his wife Joann, who were married for 62 years, are survived by their five children Margaret Williamson, Alfred “Bud” Ogletree, Laura Garcia, Tom Ogletree and Dan Ogletree.
University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Athletics will celebrate the life of Ogletree during a special ceremony prior to the opening night homecoming baseball game at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, at 7 p.m. at UTRGV Baseball Stadium in Edinburg.