For teams in any sport, coaches are a vital part to the success of the team.

For teams in any sport, coaches are a vital part to the success of the team.

Whether it be imparting knowledge or giving advice based on their experiences, coaches are the unquestioned leaders of every locker room.

The Lone Grove Longhorn baseball family is in mourning after the passing of one of their leaders -    James Eugene “Gene” Caton -  who passed away earlier this month.

During the 1970’s, the  Longhorns had one of the greatest runs in Oklahoma baseball history, with Caton leading the way.

From 1972 to 1977, the Longhorns made the state tournament seven times, in fall and spring baseball. He led the Longhorns to two state titles, three state runner-up finishes and two semi-final appearances.

Caton graduated from Byng High School in 1966 and was named an Alternate All-State selection his senior year. After high school, Caton played college ball at East Central University in Ada.

Upon graduating from ECU, Caton was hired on as the Longhorns head coach, where he led Lone Grove to success they had never achieved before in baseball.

Caton left coaching in 1990 and served as a science teacher until his retirement in 2008. In the 21 years under Caton’s leadership, the Longhorns won their district 16 times and he finished his career with 333 victories.

Former Longhorn player Robert Hunter was coached by Caton from 1972 to 1975, participating on five of the state tournament teams. One of the things Hunter remembers most about his former coach and friend was how Caton instilled a winning culture in the program.

“Being a player on five of those State teams, I can tell you that we believed we should go to State every season,” Hunter said. “It was expected at Lone Grove, anything else was not acceptable.”

One of the things Hunter believes helped Caton create a winning culture was his old-school approach to baseball. Caton would insist players tuck in their jerseys and hustle while taking infield to try and intimidate opponents before each game.

Caton’s old-school approach is one of the many attributes Hunter will remember most about his former coach.

“In order to save time, Caton threw every pitch in batting practice, and did that for years,” Hunter said.” He loved baseball, he loved his players and students and he loved his Lone Grove Longhorns.”

Former Lone Grove teacher and superintendent Gary Don Scott came to the school in 1975, during the height of the Longhorn dynasty. 

Scott saw how much the city of Lone Grove meant to Caton, and to those in the community.

“He was a very modest person and had more accomplishments than any coach in the history of Lone Grove,” Scott said. “He seldom talked about those accomplishments or himself, but always put the spotlight on his team and players. He was a loyal employee and loved the Lone Grove schools and community.”

Current Longhorn baseball coach Tyler Pybas did not know Caton personally, but now being in the same shoes as Caton once was, he has the utmost respect for the job Caton did.

“He (Caton) got Lone Grove baseball on the map in the 1970s by winning a couple of state championships,” Pybas said. “Legendary guy who treated kids with respect and expected a lot out of his kids. In honor of him, we need to play hard and compete hard and do the little things to honor his name.”

On Monday, the Lone Grove school board voted unanimously to change the name of the school’s current baseball field in Caton’s name. 

Caton is survived by his son Chris daughter-in-law Laura.