Park's new name: Turner Field

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Members of Hephzibah's 1972 state championship team joined friends and family on Tuesday to honor the late coach Al Turner at the naming of the baseball field at the new athletic complex at Hephzibah High School. Turner, a former teacher and elementary school principal, died of cancer in 1990.

Al Lyman Turner's children have heard countless stories about their grandfather, George Albert "Al" Turner Jr.


Because he died of cancer in 1990 -- at the age of 48 -- his grandchildren never met him.

On Tuesday, they learned more about their grandfather, specifically the far-reaching influence of the former baseball coach, English teacher and elementary school principal.

With Al Turner's family, friends and former players in attendance, the baseball field at the newly built athletic complex at Hephzibah High School was named "Turner Field" and dedicated to his legacy.

"I can't tell you what it means for my children to get to see what he meant to the community," said Al Lyman Turner, who joined a dozen or so family members in the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Hephzibah's game against Burke County.

"He was a great coach," Al Lyman Turner said of his dad, whose No. 12 jersey was retired. "But the thing I remember most about him is that he related to so many different people."

One of them is Jack Padgett, a member of Richmond County's Board of Education and one of Al Turner's close friends and classmates.

The pair played baseball growing up in Blythe.

"Now, they can really appreciate what he had done."

Padgett appreciated the ceremony because it illustrated what the former valedictorian meant to Hephzibah.

"He followed his dream, playing baseball. He really loved baseball, and he loved kids," Padgett said. "After school and all, he got back into the education system and was assistant principal and principal. He really touched the lives of the young people he worked with.

"He was just a great man."

Several members of Hephzibah's 1972 state championship squad -- coached by Turner -- also were on hand.

That team featured a young player who hadn't played organized baseball previously.

Ed Hicks went on to play three years in the New York Mets organization after playing at the University of Arkansas and at Brewton-Parker College.

Hicks credits Turner with developing him into a ballplayer.

"Prior to him, my baseball career was just playing pretty much street-level ball," Hicks said. "But coach Turner was the first true coach that I ever had to develop my skills and fundamentals of the game.

"But he also taught me about how to be a professional, not just in baseball but in life."

Reach Justin Williams at (706) 823-3304 or



Tue, 10/17/2017 - 23:12

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