A surprise banquet was held at Spessard Holland Elementary School on Saturday night to honor Glenn Rutenbar, Bartow’s legendary softball coach of 28 years. Former players, coaches, friends and family gathered to send Rutenbar off after announcing his retirement late in the 2014 season.
Rutenbar’s daughter, Kara, played the role of host as former players read off the results of each season from 1987 through 2014. Former players recollected memories from over the years about Rutenbar and their softball careers. Some brought laughs. Others brought tears, but all spoke with a fondness for the time they had with Glenn Rutenbar.
Rutenbar was also honored with plaques from the Booster Athletic Program and the Press Box.
While Bartow High School’s seven state championships, 19 district titles, 16 final four appearances, 10 straight appearances in the state final and the 2003 USA Today national championship under Rutenbar speak for themselves, his former players also spoke about their coach as a man.
“You talk about respect and there’s no better person that I learned that from,” said Tori Rehberg to her former coach. “You were my role model and still are.”
“He was a father figure,” added Wanda Darby, who played the outfield for Rutenbar from 2007 until 2010. “He was always there and not just on the softball field. He loved his girls and he made sure we knew that.”
The banquet concluded with a picture slideshow of Rutenbar over his 28 years as the head man of the softball program. The shots depicted Rutenbar with former players, doing grounds work on the field and even arguing with umpires. Finally, the legend addressed those in attendance.
“I know a lot of people put in a lot of time to do this and I do appreciate it, even though I don’t like it,” he joked. “This is going to be hard next year especially when the girls start playing.”
While Rutenbar and Bartow High School will certainly miss one another, the legend of 28 years vowed to give up any oversight over the program. Rutenbar is the only head coach that the Bartow softball program has known in its existence. The school has yet to name a successor.
“I promised to stay away, so I’m going to stay away,” Rutenbar added. “I’ve done this for half of my life. I’m really going to miss all of these people here.”
In addition to all of the championship accolades, Rutenbar coached in nearly 900 games finishing with a 738-136-1 record which includes a remarkable 70-17 mark in the state tournament. Along with all of Bartow’s accomplishments as a team, 71 of the 181 student-athletes to play for Rutenbar went on to either play or sign to play collegiately.
“No other coach compares to him. I’ve never met a coach who could just remember stats off his head from two decades back,” said Victoria Lykins, former player and daughter of longtime Rutenbar assistant, Carl Howell. “There is no one more dedicated than he is. I think Bartow as a community is definitely going to miss Coach.”