By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Gary Hicks caught the softball fever as a teenager.
More than a half-century later, he’s still playing.
That longevity along with a history of participation on championship teams has earned him a spot in the North Carolina Softball Hall of Fame.
“It has been a quick 53 years,” Hicks said in an interview with The Alamance News.
The latest recognition came with last month’s induction after decades on the fields in North Carolina and various parts of the country.
And the Burlington man is still playing. He’s a pitcher, catcher, first baseman, or second baseman depending on the slow-pitch team.
“I haven’t ever missed a season,” Hicks said. “Finished up this season in October. I played for four teams last summer.”
The senior-level circuit has been good to Hicks, who turns 70 later this month.
It began when he was in high school at Western Alamance. At the time, players from that school weren’t eligible for the local American Legion baseball team, but Hicks still found a diamond to play on.
“Somehow or another, I got hooked up with a church softball team,” he recalled. “Got hooked on softball. I was fortunate to play when softball was in his heyday in Burlington in the ‘70s, ’80s and early ‘90s.”
He joined Raleigh-based Triangle Masters in the 40-and-older division and was part of three national championships in that division.
“Gary Hicks always goes above and beyond the call of duty for softball at every level while reaching out to many players and teams across the state and region,” says Bill Barrett, president of Carolina Senior Sports.
While continuing to play softball on various teams, Hicks also became an Amateur Softball Association umpire. He called games on various levels for 17 years.
Among those was a 50-and-older tournament as he approached that age bracket himself. That perked his interest in that level, so he spent nearly a decade playing for a Richmond, Virginia-based team.
“When I got playing senior ball, it’s just a different game,” Hicks said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie to it. You develop a lot of long-term friendships.”
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For Hicks, he said his wife, Vickie, has been supportive of his softball endeavors. Jessica Hicks, one of his daughters, has long been involved with amateur softball while with the Burlington Recreation and Parks Department, and she presented him at the end the induction at Alamance Country Club.
During the past eight years, Hicks has had a pair of shoulder replacements. But he never missed a season, pointing out that he was fortunate to avoid other injuries.
“I can’t make the long throws anymore,” he said. “In senior ball, there are not a lot of strong arms.”
He worked for 32 years for the City of Burlington, finishing as director of public works and operations. That role gave him another connection to the N.C. Softball Hall of Fame, which is based at Burlington City Park. He said he was involved in the construction of that building.
Beginning in the early 1970s, he has played on numerous teams representing Alamance County, including Lakeview Community Church, Smith Tractor, Hardee’s, Lowes Inc., Alamance Fence, Nall Printing, Smith Trophy, Star Foods, and Smart Socks.
In total, he has been part of 51 national championships at numerous levels. He had 42 All-American or All-World tournament selections. Hicks collected 16 all-state awards.
Hicks, who graduated from Western Alamance in 1972, also played basketball in high school.
In the recent N.C. Softball Hall of Fame class, Hicks was the only player inductee among umpires, administrators, and other supporters.
“Softball has been a part of my life,” he said. “I don’t plan on giving it up quite yet.”