Skyhawk Baseball | Bubba Cates - Head Coach
Victor “Bubba” Cates has been head coach of the UT Martin baseball program since the summer of 1998. He is entering his 15th season at UT Martin and 24th overall as a collegiate head coach.
Under Cates, the Skyhawks have produced either a Major League Baseball draftee or a MLB free agent signee in three straight years. In 2010, Wes Alsup signed with the Atlanta Braves organization after setting the UT Martin single-season record with seven saves. One year later, infielder Trey Karlen was drafted in the 33rd round by the Washington Nationals after becoming the first player in program history to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 50 bases in a career. Then in June 2012, Alec Mills was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round after he ranked amongst the Ohio Valley Conference leaders in innings pitched (6.36 per game), strikeouts (74), least walks (2.63 per game) and ERA (3.94).
Last spring, Cates coached All-OVC second teamer Jordan Owen, as well as OVC All-Freshman Sonny Mastromatteo and Nico Zych. Owen ended his career as one of the all-time UT Martin greats, finishing in the top-five in program history in seven career categories.
A historical 2011 campaign occured under Cates, as the Skyhawks reached the OVC Tournament for the first time since 1996 after tying a program-record with 10 wins (including seven of eight during one stretch) in league play. While at the tournament in nearby Jackson, UT Martin produced its first OVC Tournament victory with a 6-2 win over Eastern Kentucky on May 26.
Cates also found a diamond in the rough with Phil Sorensen in 2011. The freshman from Erie, Pa. was named a Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, while also earning All-OVC first team and All-Freshman accolades. The only freshman on the All-OVC first team, Sorensen hit .347 with a .547 slugging percentage in 49 games.
Cates also oversaw the finishing touches on the careers of three all-time greats in 2011. Cody Terry ended his career as the program's all-time leader in games played (199), hits (226), at-bats (750), doubles (47), runs scored (145) and assists (555). Wes Patterson finished his career as one of only three players in program history to accumulate 200 career hits, while graduating as the all-time UT Martin leader in home runs (39), runs batted in (171) and putouts (1,293). The aforementioned Karlen also wrapped up his two-year career as the only player in program history to have 20 or more home runs (23) and 50 or more stolen bases (51).
It was a big year for Cates on and off the field in 2010. On the field, he is coming off arguably his best season as head coach at UT Martin, as he willed the Skyhawks to 24 wins - the most the program had tallied since 1992. UT Martin also produced a program-record six All-OVC selections under Cates in 2010, a year in which the Skyhawks shattered 11 team records.
Off the field, Cates was the recipient of the 2010 Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). One of the highest honors in the coaching profession, the award is named after Jerry Kindall, the former major league player and retired head coach at the University of Arizona.
The success in 2010 was a continuation of 2009, when Cates set a new school record for OVC wins with 10. Overall, Cates has had four 20-win seasons at UT Martin, including three consecutive seasons (21 in 2009, 24 in 2010, 20 in 2011).
Widely respected in the baseball circles, Cates is dedicated to sustaining a successful program at the university for many years to come. He came to UT Martin from Jackson State Community College where he built a successful program during a nine-year period. While at Jackson State, Cates developed the Generals into a nationally ranked program. The 1996 team recorded a sixth-place finish in the Junior College World Series and the 1997 and 1998 teams were also ranked nationally in the junior college polls. The team advanced to the Tennessee Junior College playoffs six consecutive seasons. Cates’ overall record at Jackson State was 255-161.
In addition to the FCA award he received in December 2010, Cates has received several coach of the year honors. He was the National Junior College Athletic Association Region VII, Eastern District Coach of the Year and the Tennessee Junior College Western Division Coach of the Year in 1996. Cates received his 25-year Coaching Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2009.
Under Cates, Jackson State was one of only three junior colleges from across the nation that had an All-American every year from 1993-98. Cates had 52 of his Jackson State players to move on and play in four-year programs. His players also enjoyed academic success with 12 receiving All-TJCCAA academic honors.
Before moving to Jackson State, Cates was head baseball coach at Kirby High in Memphis. He also taught mathematics at the school.
A native of Cleveland, Miss., Cates played college baseball for former Boston Red Sox pitcher and legendary coach Dave “Boo” Ferris and the nationally ranked Delta State program.
Cates holds both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Delta State. He is active in the FCA and is a member of both the Tennessee and American Baseball Coaches Associations and has worked as an associate scout for the Seattle Mariners organization.
Cates is married to the former Ann Simmons of Hammond, La., also a Delta State graduate. They are the parents of three sons: Lin, Reid and Cameron. Along with his baseball duties, Cates teaches in the UT Martin mathematics and computer science department.