Former baseball coach pens memoir of his nearly 40 years at Longwood
Charles Buddy Bolding spent nearly 40 years of his life as head coach of the Longwood baseball program, but his contributions to the university extend far beyond the diamond.
For nearly four decades, Bolding not only called the shots from the Longwood dugout—he also helped usher Longwood into a new era alongside one of Longwood’s most influential presidents, Dr. Henry I. Willett Jr.
The story of Bolding’s 36-year journey now resides in a 600-page book titled Top Half – Get On Base, Dammit! that Bolding, ever the storyteller and closet academician, penned himself. The resulting encyclopedia of anecdotes is equal parts memoir, historical narrative and comedy, and paints a detailed portrait of Longwood in one of its most influential and transformative periods.
During his tenure, Bolding, who earned a degree in biology and served in Vietnam, repeatedly stepped outside the boundaries of his coaching duties to form relationships with university presidents, professors, administrators and students from all walks of life. That Bolding would become more than a baseball coach for Longwood was predicted in part by Willett, who oversaw the transition of Longwood to a coeducational institution as men began to be admitted in the mid-1970s.
“When Henry Willett brought me here to build this program, he wanted to build it based on solid colors for the future,” Bolding said.
He was a very astute person as far as academics and integrity, so he made it clear to me that that’s what he was looking for. He was looking for someone who could accept a challenging situation developing the baseball program, but at the same time doing it with young guys across Virginia who were of good character.”
‘When Henry Willett brought me here to build this program, he wanted to build it based on solid colors for the future.’
— BUDDY BOLDING
Convincing talented Virginia players to take a flier on a brand-new baseball program was only part of Bolding’s challenge. Getting his players to campus was one thing—making sure they bought into Willett’s vision for the university was another.
“The players I started the program with here 37 years ago, they all knew we had to walk a real tight line. We had to be consistently good in the classroom, we had to be careful socially, and we had to win because there was no way that coeducation would fly if basketball and baseball, probably in that order, didn’t get the job done.”
Bolding got the job done, and quickly. Longwood went 16-12 in his first year, 1979. By 1982, the Lancers went 31-10-1 and played in the Division II World Series. Longwood returned to the summer classic in 1991.
Each of those seasons, from World Series glory to sub-.500 disappointment, receives equal coverage in Top Half. Bolding devotes a chapter to every year he spent at Longwood and ultimately weaves them together to form a grand story of the university’s growth as witnessed through the eyes of a coach who literally built Longwood’s baseball field with his bare hands.
The namesake of Longwood’s baseball stadium, Bolding still maintains an office on the third floor of Tabb Hall. People still address him as “Coach” even though he has passed that torch to first-year head coach Ryan Mau, who took over the program in July.
Mau, the former associate head coach at Navy, will lead Longwood baseball into its 38th season, but the beginning of the story will forever belong to Bolding.
“Henry Willett used to tell me,” Bolding said, “if we can make this thing go, it will make a grand story someday. So there’s a grand story right there in front of you.”
To purchase Top Half – Get On Base, Dammit!, contact Bolding at 434-390-8105.
By: Chris Cook