The ABCA is proud to announce that the recipient of the 2016 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award is former longtime North Florida head coach Dusty Rhodes. Having impacted the game at every level, Rhodes embodies what it means to be a winner of this prestigious award.
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 and will be presented during the ABCA/Diamond Hall of Fame/Coach of the Year Banquet on Jan. 8, 2016.
Rhodes, who coached at the University of North Florida from 1988-2010, is entering his third season as an assistant at Flagler College. 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 the University of North Florida, where he built the program from the ground up. Rhodes started the program in 1988, when it was an NAIA institution. In his first four seasons, Rhodes guided the Ospreys to two NAIA World Series appearances (1989, 1991).
After a transition to NCAA Div. II in 1993, Rhodes would lead the Ospreys to three more World Series appearances (2000, 2001, 2005). The 2005 season saw Rhodes and UNF finish as the national runner-up in the College World Series, falling 12-9 in the championship game to Florida Southern. The following year (2006), UNF would move to NCAA Division I. In 23 years at North Florida, Rhodes compiled a record of 909-448.
In 2009, Rhodes was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame.
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 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 for ABCA Hall of Famer Hal Smeltzly.