Extra Innings: ‘Rac’ Slider and the Amazing Grays
By: Roy Maynard
Rac Slider’s days playing and coaching professional baseball are over, but the lessons he learned still apply today. As he participates in the De Kalb First United Methodist Church’s Amazing Grays group for seniors, playing 42, dominoes and other games, he shares his time and wisdom with his friends and visitors.
“Baseball is just like life itself,” says Rac (which is short for Rachel). “You have your ups and downs, you make your mistakes and try to correct them and go on down the road. That’s the same as you do in life.”
Born in 1933, Rac grew up in nearby Simms, Texas, where he played baseball at James Bowie High School. He played his first professional baseball game at the age of 20, for the Alexandria Aces in the Evangeline League. The next year, he moved up to the Pampa Oilers in the West Texas-New Mexico League, where his batting average was an impressive .320.
In the next few years, he went from Shreveport to Little Rock, back to Shreveport again, then as far away as Hawaii, Portland and Seattle as a shortstop and second baseman. His finest year as a player was 1961, when he was with the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League. He hit for .300 and banged out seven home runs.
The next year, the Islanders sold his contract to the Boston Red Sox organization, and Rac spent the rest of his career with it.
By 1964, Rac found he had a talent for coaching. In 1965 he became manager for a Boston Red Sox farm team, the Harlan Red Sox in the Appalachian League. Before he ended his career, he coached in the major leagues, as a bullpen coach and infield coach for the Red Sox.
“Folks think of baseball as fun and games, but it’s more than that,” Rac says. “It’s working every day. There’s teaching and learning; there’s batting practice and a lot of ground balls. It’s getting up and trying again, working to correct your mistakes and be a better player.”
And it’s not always about winning. You plant the seeds, Rac says, but you don’t always see the fruit yourself.
“In the minor leagues, you’re looking for a win, of course,” Rac says. “But your primary job is to teach players, to make them better and help them make it to the big leagues.”
Throughout his career, it was his wife who kept him grounded.
“I loved it, but it was a lot of traveling,” he says. “My wife was a first-grade teacher, and she would teach during the school year, then travel with me during the summer. Maybe that’s why I’m such a homebody now.”
Still, the Amazing Grays gets him out of the house.
“When it was held at night, we didn’t come as much,” he explained. “But they changed the time to the day, and we have potlucks, we play games, and we fellowship. It’s good for us.”
It doesn’t take much to get Rac talking about his baseball days, but he knows that faith is a lot like playing ball.
“When you lose, and things aren’t going your way, you work on your mistakes and your correct what you’re doing,” Rac says. “That’s just like faith. You ask forgiveness, you try harder to follow His teachings, and you move on. And the thing with faith, you know the good Lord will always take you in.”