I received word that Mike Feher passed away today. I have so many memories of Mike. Many of them are flooding back to me right now.
I guess most of all I am remembering Mike the coach. He coached so many Signal Mountain baseball and basketball youth recreation league teams few people could count them all. He was a beloved figure. He was laid back, always uplifting, and genuinely enjoyed being around the kids. In return the kids loved him back. His job required him to travel for a living so attending all the practices and the games was a sacrifice to him. But he never made anyone feel like he was sacrificing. He just gave and gave and gave. There really was nobody like Mike Feher.
In 2004, I was Mike’s assistant coach. One of the boys on our team was a great kid and a good athlete, but he could get pretty emotional out in the field. The boy wanted to pitch. So even though we had a couple very good pitchers, Mike let him pitch. I remember being so impressed with Mike watching him sit next to Zach in the corner of the dugout talking to him quietly, assuring him that no matter how he threw out there, it was all going to be okay.
In basketball, one of the boys in the league had some special needs that made it difficult for him to compete with the rest of the boys. At the end of each game, the coaches would let Denver take a shot or two to be sure he felt like he was a contributing part of the game. We had one coach who wanted to win at all costs and thought that even though these boys still weren’t even in middle school, we should be playing every play for keeps. At the end of one of the games, this coach protested as Denver was getting his chance to contribute. As commissioner of the league that year, Mike over ruled him and said it’s more important for all the boys to build their self esteem and be part of the game than just to win.
One of my memories of him was when I coached against him. Our kids were probably in second or third grade at the time. It was the last game of the season. One of the boys on his team’s mother had been suddenly hospitalized a couple days earlier with a severe heart ailment. The boy’s father was trying to make everything normal for his son and let Justin play in the game. But word came just before the game that Justin’s mother had died. With tears in his eyes and his voice breaking, Mike told us of the news. We all coached through that game watching Justin playing his best until a sharp grounder hit by one of my players took a bad bounce and hit Justin in the mouth. Justin’s lip was badly split and had to go to the hospital for stitches . . . the same hospital that his mother had passed away in just hours before. Mike was just beside himself with grief.
Our last time coaching together, we coached the Signal Mountain all-stars against the Lookout Mountain all-stars. We hated getting beat by Lookout Mountain, but even though it wasn’t required in all-star play, Mike insisted on all of our players getting a chance to play. The coaches had selected a girl to play on our all-star team that year. Colton Jumper and Joey Rodgers were pitching for Lookout and just tearing us up. A couple of our best players teased their female teammate when she didn’t play as well as the boys. Mike benched both of the boys (one of them was my son) for the rest of the game. That was Mike. He was for everyone and he was for the right thing.
Even though he coached so many teams, I honestly can’t remember if Mike ever coached a championship team in youth baseball or basketball. He never stacked his teams and he never made winning the most important part of the game. While he certainly liked to win, he was more concerned with building up the kids. Thinking about him today and his legacy, winning a game or a championship seems so trivial.
I didn’t know Mike’s daughters as well as I knew his son, but my oldest daughter participated in the Junior Miss contest the year after Mike’s daughter, Becca, won the event. As the previous winner, Becca hosted the event. I sat near Mike and talked with him throughout the evening. He couldn’t have been more proud of his daughter . . . and what a great girl she had turned out to be.
Mike was an excellent golfer. Anyone who can drive Signal Mountain’s fifth green has got a golf game. He played in many of the men’s tournament games, but always took time to play with his wife, Candy, and his son, Mikey. He helped Mikey develop into one of the best junior players in the Chattanooga area and eventually earn a scholarship to play for David Lipscomb University. But as great a golfer as Mikey is, he is a better person and Mike certainly had a strong hand in that. I know Mike’s mother and father. They were always involved with their children’s and their grandchildren’s lives. We’d see them at the games, around the golf course, and around town. They were equally as positive and supportive. People say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. I’m sure it doesn’t.
Anyone who knew Mike Feher, would say he was kind, he was giving, he was loyal, he was uplifting; there really aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe him. Even though as our kids got older and we didn’t spend as much time together, I remember him only with the fondest thoughts. He certainly was more than a coach. He was a great man. I am a much better man to have known him. I can’t help but think his memory and his spirit will live on in us. Rest in peace, Mike Feher. I will miss you.
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I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Bob Linehart regarding Mike Feher. I got to know Mike when he and I coached basketball in the Signal Mountain league. His teams always played well and he was always gracious in victory or defeat. His players learned how to play basketball as well as conduct themselves with great sportsmanship during the game. A class act.
Mr. Linehart, he did coach a championship team one year. His 9 -10 year old team defeated my team in double overtime for the league championship. Both teams played outstanding and yes all the players on both team got to play and contribute.
Years later when I would see Mike at a golf tournament we would talk about that game and how exciting it was for the players and coaches. I will miss Mike his great smile and a hearty laugh. What a great guy.
Red Bank Middle School