|Organization:||University of North Florida|
Dusty Rhodes has impacted the game of baseball at every level over his 45 years as a coach. He is the deserving recipient of the 2016 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award as he embodies everything it means to be a winner of this prestigious lifetime achievement award.
Rhodes, who coached at the University of North Florida from 1988 through 2010, was entering his third season as an assistant at Flagler College at the time he received the award. Previously, Rhodes served as the hitting coach for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Midwest League affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, for three seasons (2011-13). As a collegiate head coach, Rhodes compiled a record of 1212-566 (.682).
Rhodes spent 23 years at the helm of North Florida, where he built the program from the ground up. Rhodes started the program in 1988, when it was an NAIA institution. His inaugural team eclipsed the 40-win mark. Rhodes guided the Ospreys to two NAIA World Series appearances (1989 and 1991) in the program's first four seasons.
After a transition to NCAA Div. II in 1993, Rhodes led the Ospreys to three more World Series appearances (2000, 2001, 2005). The 2005 season saw Rhodes and UNF finish as the national runner-up, falling 12-9 in the national championship game to Florida Southern. The following year, UNF moved to NCAA Div. I. In 23 years at North Florida, Rhodes compiled a record of 909-448.
He is a three-time ABCA/Diamond NCAA Div. II Southeast Region Coach of the Year (2000, 2001, 2005), a five-time Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005), a three-time NAIA Area V Coach of the Year (1989, 1991, 1992) and a four-time NAIA District 25 Coach of the Year (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992).
In 2009, Rhodes' was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame.
In addition to his success in the college game, Rhodes has been heavily involved in international amateur baseball. In 2004, Rhodes served as the head coach of the Greek Olympic team. Rhodes returned to serve as the head coach of the Greek National Team in the 2005 European Championships. He was also an assistant for Greece in 2002 and 2003, and served as an assistant coach for the 1996 Australian Olympic Team. In 1993, 1994 and 2001, he was an assistant coach for the USA National Team.
Rhodes began coaching in 1969 as an assistant coach at Florida Southern College, his alma mater. He joined Palm Beach Junior College as an assistant in 1974 and was named head baseball coach in 1975. During his seven years as head coach, Rhodes compiled a record of 303-118. Before taking over at UNF, Rhodes was an assistant baseball coach at the University of Florida from 1982-87.
As a player, Rhodes attended Palm Beach Junior College followed by two years at Florida Southern, where he played under ABCA Hall of Famer Hal Smeltzly.
Named after the great Lefty Gomez, this annual award is presented to an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally. The Lefty Gomez Award is sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.