Rick Owens still calls Monticello home, even though he was raised and went to high school in Pine Bluff. Owens is one of five former athletes being inducted into the 2022 class of the UAM Sports Hall of Fame in October Homecoming weekend.
“Monticello has a special place in our hearts and we have so many friends still here,” Owens said during a recent visit. “Our son Tyler was born here in 1992, and my wife (formerly Donna Wilson) grew up in Monticello and taught school at Drew Central for 15 years. I spent over 18 years in Monticello and some of my closest friends are here. We still get the Advance and keep up with everyone thru facebook. We still consider Monticello our home though we live in Texas.”
Owens came to Monticello in 1975 and played baseball at UAM for four years. He was also the sports editor for The Advance during his college years, had a sports show on KHBM and worked for the Sports Information Dept at UAM.
“The Frank Jackson family was great to work for at The Advance and was a great job in college. I had previously worked for the Commercial in Pine Bluff, so I thought I wanted a career in journalism when I first came here. I loved working with Larry Smith at UAM and playing baseball for Espie Moore my first year.”
“I had a walk-on offer at Fayetteville with Coach DeBriyn but with Monticello being so close, plus the opportunity of working at The Advance, and a work-study scholarship from UAM, it was a pretty easy choice. And I don’t regret it.”
Owens remembers having a sports column in The Advance called “Rick’s Remarks,” laughing at the memories of covering Monticello, Drew Central and UAM sports teams.
“It was a lot of fun covering all the sports teams here. There was always a laugh interviewing Don Byrd, Ronnie McFarland, Raymond Scogin, Doug Barnes, Harold Tilley, Tommy Barnes and the other coaches I got to know. And the memories I have of playing softball in the early 80s for Jackson Saw and Pauline Baptist were the best times. I was just out of college and made some lifetime friends.”
Owens is being inducted into UAM’s Hall of Fame, primarily because of his 1978 season, finishing with a then school record .441 batting average. He was first team All-AIC, All-NAIA and the NAIA Academic All-American team. He credits Donnie Fendley for the two years he was the baseball coach at UAM.
“I knew I was being nominated by Mark Tiner and Jim Beasley, but when Coach Hud Jackson told me, I was shocked. I was driving back to Houston when Coach Jackson called, so that was a great drive home thinking about all the memories I had while playing and living in Monticello.”
After graduating with a degree in physical education in 1979, Owens chose the business world, taking a manager’s job with Kell Athletics back in Pine Bluff. Kell’s also had a store in Monticello, co-owned by Martha and Tommy Scifres. Owens bought the South Main Monticello store in 1981 and changed the name to Southeast Athletics.
He also took on the job as head baseball coach at UAM in 1984 while owning the store. He coached at the college three years before leaving both in 1986.
“Walmart coming to town in the 80s really hurt some of the small businesses in town. Plus, it was hard doing both the store and baseball at UAM, so I closed the store and eventually fell back on my degree of teaching and coaching. I taught at Monticello High School and Junior High for five years and loved working with kids. I worked with some great students, teachers and coaches that I am still in contact with thru Facebook.”
But the love of being in sales, especially baseball cards and memorabilia, won out and changed his path. He started buying and selling baseball cards and going to collector shows in 1987. And eventually opened a baseball card store in Monticello called Baseball Cards, Etc.
“I was making more money during the summer months than teaching and coaching, so I decided to go full time in the memorabilia business. But I went back to coaching for a few years when Tyler was born in order to stay home more. I was lucky to coach under Greg Tiner and Johnny McMurry when the Billies won the state championship in 1994, so that’s another great memory.”
The toughest decision Owens ever made came a few months later when he was offered a job at The Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers. He was sales manager for Sports Legacy Art Gallery and moved to Texas in 1995.
“That was tough leaving Monticello. Our son was three years old at the time, and he was the only grandson to Donna’s parents (Virginia and Waymon Wilson). There were a lot of tears shed over that move. I always wanted to play major league baseball, and the opportunity to work at a major league park was just too good to turn down.”
Owens worked in Arlington for 5 years, before taking another sales manager job with Tristar Sports Productions in Houston in 2000. He worked for Tristar until starting his own business in 2012. He continues to exhibit at sports shows and holiday gift shows under RGO Sports. His website is www.rgosports.com.
“As you can see, I’m a total sports nut. I have played the game, umpired, refereed and coached all the sports, had a sporting goods store, and I am still selling baseball cards and memorabilia. I haven’t made a lot of money but I’ve had a ton of fun doing it and made lots of lifetime friends. And many of those are still in Monticello.”
‘I love coming back to visit and play in the MCC 4-ball,” Owens continued. “I get to see many of my former students and players, and many golfing buddies. They have all grown, have families of their own and are successful bankers, nurses, doctors, teachers and business owners.”
“I remember coming back playing in the 2018 golf tournament, and hardly anyone recognized me because I had been gone for 23 years. Plus I had put on about 25 pounds and had a few more grey hairs. It was so much fun because I knew them but they didn’t recognize me. I’ll keep coming back to play as long as I’m invited.”
Owens looks forward to seeing old friends during this year’s Hall of Fame induction, scheduled October 6. Other inductees this year include former softball players Sarah Hayslip Santo and Becca Tipton Greenwood, basketball player Derylton Hill and Spiirit Award winner Jeremy Woodall. They will also be recognized during Homecoming festivities on Saturday, October 8., when the Weevils host Northwestern Oklahoma at 2 pm.
“I still can’t believe it, it’s a great honor and going to be a lot of fun. I hope to see to see a lot of old friends, teammates and some of my former players. I can’t wait.”
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