By Jordan Beach
As Reinhardt’s baseball program continues to grow, the number 25 will never be worn by a player again after the field dedication last Sunday.
Closing out the dedication of the Ken White Baseball Field renovations, head baseball coach Jonathan Burton called vice president for athletics and athletic director to the podium.
“Our final dedication of the day is something that is special to me. Popp is one of the kindest and most loyal people you will ever meet. His compassion towards his players is evident and his commitment to Reinhardt athletics is unmatched,” said Burton. “When I first took this job, I knew this was a man who respected friendship, held his coaches accountable and was willing to do whatever he could for your sport to be successful. Not only is Coach Popp a colleague, but he is also someone I call a friend.”
Popp was hired in 2004 to start Reinhardt’s baseball program. He has now overseen the growth and development of the 23 teams making up the University’s athletic program.
“As many of you know, Coach Popp started the program at Reinhardt. He laid the roots for us to grow,” said Burton. “He has now set the bar even higher by taking the last team he coached to the program’s first-ever NAIA World Series. As we started this fall, I wanted to find a way to recognize coach. Not only did something come to mind, but it also came to mind as something that would last forever and be seen daily.
“In 2019, number 25 is officially retired. No one will ever wear this number again as we embrace the man who started it all.”
With the official retirement of his Popp’s number, the coaches gifted him a framed jersey to commemorate all he has done and will continue doing for Reinhardt’s athletic program.
“We’ve been working at it for a while, about 14-15 years now, and we’ve had some mild success. The last couple of years have been even better. I think the future is just completely bright for the program right now. Coach Burton and the leadership of this program is exactly what we were looking for and I think this year is going to be a great example of the trend that the program is going to be on for the time we have baseball here at Reinhardt,” said Popp of the baseball program.
After months of planning, the coaches were able to successfully surprise Popp.
“When you get caught off guard, it’s kind of hard to put it into words. They did a good job surprising me. What an honor and privilege. What a great moment.”