Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Longtime softball coach walks off his beloved field

Jun 06, 2024 10:13AM ● By Catherine Garrett

At some point you know when to hang up the jersey and take off the cleats. And, after spending more than 50 years on the diamond, long-time softball coach Butch Latey just felt it going into the 2024 spring season. “I knew it was time,” he said. “My legs are gone. I can hardly walk.” 

The 82-year-old Latey’s last ride this year ended like many of his teams over the years have, with his squad going deep into the postseason and finishing near the top. The Bountiful High softball team tied for third after a 4-2 showing in the 5A state tournament, losing to eventual champion Springville 10-7 on May 22.

“Butch Latey is the epitome of what it takes to be a successful tenured high school coach,” said BHS Athletic Director Clark Stringfellow. “He doesn't do it for the pay, or for the fame, or to get gain in any way; instead, it’s all about a true love for the game and for the student-athletes themselves. He has won a lot of games and trophies, which is great, but what is more important to him is the impact he has had on countless players who have been successful in softball and even more successful in life as wives, mothers, coaches, and community members.”

Despite typically knowing all that goes on for each game during the Redhawks season, Latey was surprised with a retirement celebration April 30 just before a game against Roy – which ended in a 15-0 win. Latey said his only clue to the festivities in his honor was seeing his number 47 painted on the field as he came early to prepare for the matchup with the Royals. Prior to the game on Butch Latey Field, a proclamation by Utah Governor Spencer Cox was read, declaring that day as “Butch Latey Day.” Gail Miller – who, along with her husband Larry have enjoyed a life-long friendship with Butch and his wife Margaret through softball – spoke of the impact that Butch has had on the sport in the state and of the numerous young women and athletes he has coached over the years. 

“I’m thankful for Butch’s mentorship and his dedicated work that has influenced the lives of so many young women who also loved the game of fast pitch softball,” Miller, the co-founder of the Larry H. Miller companies, told the Davis Journal. “Our communities are better because of his influence in the lives of these young people.”

“That was pretty special,” Latey said. “I hadn’t talked to Gail in a few years and people that I hadn’t seen in 20 years showed up.”

Former player, and assistant Bountiful High coach, Katie Tanner said the only real indication of a special event being held for Butch was his wife encouraging him to get a haircut the day before. “It was fun to see Butch so stunned and that it was all about him, number 47,” Tanner said. “To have someone as influential as Gail Miller come was really cool to see. It was the neatest thing ever to have so many come out to support him. It just showed even more that Butch has made such an impact, not just in the softball world but around the community as well.”

This journey all began for Latey when he started playing softball at the age of 15 – under a fictitious name in the Cosmo League – because he was too young.  As his 5’3”-100 lb. frame increased in size by his senior year in high school to where he grew seven inches and gained 30 pounds, he was given a baseball scholarship as a utility player and outfielder at Mesa Junior College. He continued to play softball, coach Pony League baseball and coach softball to where at one point he was managing three teams at once. “I always enjoyed the camaraderie with the guys and gals,” he said.

He competed in the All-Church softball tournaments in the 1960s and was encouraged to move into an apartment in the Monument Park Fifth Ward so Latey could play for their team – a squad that went on to win the 1967 championship. The series of events that followed, with their pitcher moving out of the ward, the Lateys purchasing the pitcher’s house, and Butch Latey finding a house within the boundaries for a pitcher named Larry H. Miller and his wife Gail led to a friendship between the Millers and Lateys that has spanned decades on and off the field. Butch and Larry continued to play together on teams in the Metro Softball League until the Millers moved to Colorado. When they returned to Utah, Butch and Larry reunited on the newly-formed Larry H. Miller traveling softball team and played for four years with Butch also coaching the team throughout that time and until 1990.

“When I reminisce about our softball years, Butch has a place of honor in my memories. He was as an important part of our competitive teams for many years,” said Miller. “Larry and Butch were lifelong friends and shared a deep love for the game, which ‘Coach’ Latey passed down to his players for over 50 years.”

Latey broke into the high school coaching ranks in 1995, heading up the Olympus softball program for the next five years before leading Alta to three straight state championships from 1999 to 2001. From there, he coached nine years at Highland, where he was also the girls basketball coach for six of those seasons, before he became the head coach at Bountiful in 2005. He went on to lead the Braves and (as of 2021 the Redhawks) to three second-place finishes and seven other Final Four showings. His BHS teams over the past 19 seasons have also won eight region championships, including the Region 5 titles the last six years.

Latey has influenced hundreds over the past 39 seasons of high school softball, including Tanner who took private hitting lessons from him between the fourth and eighth grades before playing for him at Bountiful from 2015 to 2018. After competing at Snow College three and a half years ago – where Butch checked in on her weekly – she returned to the BHS dugout to coach alongside him. 

“I’ve gotten to learn so many things from Butch like how to work hard, do things the right way for the right reasons and have fun while you’re doing it,” an emotional Tanner said, through “happy tears.” “I have so much love and respect for him and am so grateful that I’ve been able to a part of his legacy. It’s been an honor.”

Latey’s coaching philosophy was all about “having fun and getting better” and he felt that if his teams did that, they would win a lot of games. “We did just that,” he said. “As I look back, softball has been a lesson in life. My players and coaches would tell you that and I’ve always tried to teach life lessons with coaching. This approach can literally turn lives around.”

It’s hard for Latey to believe the time has come to say goodbye to the sport that has enriched his life immensely. “You never think the day is coming when you’re going to retire, but it did,” he said. “It’s been a great 20 years at Bountiful High. And I’ll miss the kids the most.”

Margaret Latey said that softball has been a part of their lives their entire 60-year marriage. “We have made some wonderful lifelong friends and have been able to travel to some amazing places watching him play and coach softball,” she said. “We raised our children at the ballpark, and bought our first home near the ballpark. Butch’s passion has been coaching. He loves the girls and will miss them dearly. He’s had to learn how to use a cell phone and text because that’s how kids communicate now. This has been bittersweet for me because I know how hard it was for him to make this decision. It’s too darn sad our bodies have to wear out! It’s been a great ride. Now I’ll have to get used to having him home more! I’ll put up the card table and get him more puzzles to work on.”

Coach Latey credits his wife for her unwavering support over the years as he played and coached. “Without her, it wouldn’t have ever worked,” he said.

He spent countless hours in helping his players on the field, but his dedication went well beyond that as he could literally be found tending to the field constantly to make sure it was not just playable, but was meticulously cared for.

“If you could ever not find Butch, he was at the field, quietly watering the grass and pulling weeds,” Tanner said. “He is always giving and has so much fun doing it, always looking to help others and make the community better than you found it. He taught us to give it our all and he showed us that by who he is privately.”

“Butch’s reach has been never-ending,” Stringfellow said. “He has spent more quality time with his players during their high school career than most parents do for their children in a lifetime. His impact will last forever at Bountiful High School.”