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home : sports : sports June 24, 2016

5/14/2013 10:17:00 AM
Williams Astros back to honor longtime coach Richard Aguilar
With help from community, Coach Lee Payne makes new uniform honoring Williams baseball luminary
Lee Payne holds up the Astros jersey honoring Richard Aguilar. Marissa Freireich/WGCN
Lee Payne holds up the Astros jersey honoring Richard Aguilar. Marissa Freireich/WGCN

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

The Astros were a major part of Williams Little League for decades. The team dissolved in about 2005 but the Astros are back this year to honor their longtime coach, Richard Aguilar.

Aguilar coached the Astros from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. After a brief hiatus, he came back as assistant coach of the Dodgers before becoming head coach.

Lee Payne, who had played on Aguilar's Astros team as a kid, started coaching the Dodgers with Aguilar in 2010.

"I joked with him about changing back to the Astros, and he'd always say 'Yeah, it just ain't Williams Little League without the Astros.'"

Although the two talked about bringing the Astros back, it never happened.

Aguilar died on June 27, 2012. This season, Payne decided to change the Dodgers team into the Astros.

"(We) kind of resurrected the old Astros," he said. "You know they were around forever and won a lot of baseball games in this town."

The 2013 Astros team has 11 players between the ages of 9 and 12. Stitched into the Astros uniforms are the words, "In memory Richard Aguilar."

Several organizations and community members donated money for the new uniforms. Payne wishes to thank the American Legion, Eddie Aguilar, Grand Canyon Coffee and Café, Anna Dick, Lisa Ayala, Epsilon Sigma Alpha, Dorothy Miller, Williams Rotary, Kevin Smith from State Farm in Phoenix, CZ Trucking, Johnny Hatcher, Travis Grantham, Guy and Angie Mikkelsen and everyone who bought raffle tickets to support buying the new uniforms.

"I was really tickled about the support that I had," Payne said.

In about 37 seasons of coaching Little League, Aguilar coached countless Williams players, including Billy Hatcher, who played professional baseball and now coaches the Cincinnati Reds.

"He helped shape a lot of young men into the men they are today just by being a mentor," Payne said. "Everything was black and white with him. He was a real nice guy, but there was no gray and he demanded respect and effort, and I think that's a good thing."

Payne coached with Aguilar for the past two years.

"It was just like I remembered it, kind of brought back old memories," he said.

Payne said as a kid he learned to play baseball from Aguilar, and as an adult he learned coaching techniques.

"It's not all about just baseball, you're trying to make these kids young men," he said.

The Little League season opened on May 4 and goes until mid June.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Article comment by: Lee Payne

I would also like to thank the Williams Senior Center, they were another major reason we were able to purchase these uniforms. Anytime the youth in this town needs help, the Seniors are always eager to help. Again, I want to thank each and every one of you who bought raffle tickets or gave donations to honor Coach Aguilar. Please come watch a game!

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Article comment by: mike hutchins

Good work Lee and everyone else who helped make this happen. Richard deserves to be remembered for what he did for our town and country. I remember Richard going way back, and all you old school cats will remember when the field was all dirt and Mr. Pee Wee Clayton would work that field for hours every day. That was the best kept dirt ball field in america. May Richard and Mr. Pee Wee enjoy the riches of heaven and may the Lord set Richard straight that the best little league team in Williams in the 80's were the Yankees! LOL

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Article comment by: Kevin Smith State Farm

Nicely done Lee. Love supporting the league and the other projects I have supported over the years with my Williams neighbors!!!! Congrats on bringing back a little history and a great tribute!

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