Highland News Leader

HIASAA Hall of Fame nominee: Joel Hawkins, Sports

Joel Hawkins graduated from Central Michigan University in 1985, the same year his teaching career began in Highland. His coaching career began a year later.

Hawkins was the middle school baseball coach from 1986-1991. Hawkins was an assistant football coach at Highland High School for more than 20 years (1997-2008). He also helped initiate the HHS hockey program and served as head coach for five years, 1999-2003. Hawkins has also found time to be a sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a role which he started in 1987 and still serves in today.

But, it is as a baseball coach that Hawkins’ place in HHS sports history is permanently cemented. Hawkins became the head high school baseball coach in the spring of 1992, and history began. His first two Bulldog teams won regional titles, and for only the second time in HHS history, had a team win 20 games in back-to-back seasons.

Hawkins’ varsity teams have won about 65 percent of their games, 558 total and counting at this season’s start. He has experienced just four losing seasons as HHS head coach. The Bulldogs have never had back-to-back losing seasons in his tenure. Seventeen times his clubs have topped the 20-win mark and twice his teams won an amazing 30 games, including a school record of 36-4 in 2008. The Bulldogs have amassed some impressive hardware under his direction, winning eight regional titles, three sectional titles, two super-sectional plaques and two IHSA state championships (2008 and 2015). Edwardsville, Columbia, Alton Marquette, Teutopolis, Chatham Glenwood and Pleasant Plains are the only other schools in south of Springfield to win two state baseball championships.

Hawkins also has the distinction of coaching the fifth-longest game in IHSA history, a 19-inning game vs. Jerseyville in 2015.

Hawkins was elected into the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

Other Sports category nominees are former HHS football standout Billy Greenwald and St. Paul High School basketball great Dennis Luber.

HIASAA Hall of Fame Voting Procedures

When is voting? Voting will take place from May 1-31. All ballots must by in the hands of Highland Illinois Area Schools Alumni Association (HIASAA) by May 31.

Who can vote? Any alumni of any school within the boundaries of the Highland School District or any employees of these schools. Need not have graduated from school, just attended. To be able to vote, alumni or employees must be a paid member of HIASAA.

How do I become a member? Go to the association website highlandilalumni.com. There is a place to register online and an option to use PayPal to pay your dues. Or, you can send the application and a check to HIASAA, 400 Broadway, Highland, IL 62249. Membership dues are $10 per year, $40 for a five-year membership, or $100 for a lifetime membership. All memberships are for the calendar year, starting Jan. 1.

How do I vote? From May 1-31, you can obtain a downloadable ballot on the website. Ballots must be completed and mailed to HIASAA, 400 Broadway, Highland, IL 62249. All ballots must be received by May 31. he Board of Directors will count the ballots in early June and letters will be sent informing all nominees of the results. If anyone needs a ballot or wants to join the association but does not have computer access, they should contact Sherry Fletcher, HIASAA board secretary, at 618-654-6266 for a ballot or membership application. If you have any questions, contact Fletcher at the above phone number.