Diane Hipps began to talk about what it meant for her to see the kind of support the Newton County community — and in particular, Eastside High’s baseball team — showed last Wednesday after the rather sudden death of her husband Mike Hipps.
“It’s just indescribable,” Diane Hipps said. “There’s just no words. The support that everyone has showed, it’s…”
And then her voice broke. Her eyes began to well up with tears. Although the emotions of the moment robbed her of a voice to speak on it, her demeanor, and the environment surrounding her in the aftermath of a baseball game that had little to do with the scoreboard result, said it all.
After Eastside’s 17-1 win over Henry County — a game where Michael Hipps, Mike and Diane’s son, pitched in tribute — people didn’t want to leave. The packed-to-capacity baseball stadium was filled with folks donning the green shirts with the yellow hashtag statement of support #One4Seven. They were still coming up to Diane to give her hugs, offer condolences and promise genuine, heartfelt prayers.
They were still hugging each other — people who have been touched or impacted by Mike Hipps’ life “over the last 40 years,” as Eastside baseball booster club president Ryan Ralston put it.
“You’ve got so many people out here saying, ‘Mike coached my son 20 years ago,’” Ralston said. “My son Riley grew up playing for Mike Hipps. Our family has been friends with the Hipps family for years, and we just knew that we needed to find a way to give back, not only for the baseball community for this huge loss, but to just unify our entire program and get everybody together to share fond memories of Mr. Mike.”
Ralston called Mike Hipps a one-of-a-kind individual. One who always had a smile, always had a joke to crack and always displayed the love in his heart for the kids of Newton County.
“They broke the mold with Mike Hipps,” Ralston said. “There’s only one Mike Hipps. You never saw mike without a smile on his face. He dedicated himself to the kids of Newton County for over 40 years. Whether coaching them, or when He owned a skating rink and let kids get in who couldn’t afford to pay. His life touched so many lives, as you can see.”
Eastside principal Jeff Cher said that while Hipps had been a part of the community for much longer than he had, it didn’t take long to find out how special he was to Covington and Newton County.
“What you see out here, this showing of support, it reaffirms what we try to do every day to build community,” Cher said. “You’ve got students, parents, family, alumni and coaches who are all intertwining their lives, trying to make our world a little better place. This confirms that all that we still have is alive and well. In events like these, you get a glimpse of the depth of our relationships and the impact people have on each other.”
For Michael Hipps, the impact of his dad’s life was so strong that he wouldn’t have thought of commemorating his life in any other way than turning in a near flawless performance on the pitching mound.
And doing it in front of hundreds of fans wearing shirts that showed specific support for Michael who wears the No. 7 jersey was the icing on the cake.
“It meant a lot to see all of this,” Michael Hipps said. “It’s a lot of loving and supporting people around the county. And here, my baseball team is like a second family.”
Hips passed away last Saturday morning after suddenly feeling ill the Friday night before.
“Friday night he was kind of feeling weird,” Michael Hipps said. “Then Saturday morning, he passed away. It was quick and out of nowhere really.”
Almost as quick was the community’s support and the decision that something must be done to rally behind the Hipps family.
“Every baseball program from Alcovy to Newton, travel baseball teams and rec teams, the theme was the same,” Ralston said. “Everyone was asking: ‘How can we help?’ So (last) Saturday when we found out Mike passed away, we sat and thought real hard about this, and this was the tribute we came up with.”
According to Diane Hipps, it was the greatest sort of “send off” for her husband.
“Oh it was perfect,” she said. “It was just perfect. They couldn’t have paid a better tribute to Mike.”
Not one for a bunch of attention, Ralston said he could imagine how Mike would react if he were there to see it.
“This was absolutely fitting,” he said. “To see his son on the mound and to pitch so well, and all of this. Mike would probably be laughing and telling us all to go home right now because he just wouldn’t want this kind of spotlight. He did what he did out of a heart for others. It wasn’t really about himself.”