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Wallace to build Coach Johnny Oppert Athletic Development Facility
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Wallace to build Coach Johnny Oppert Athletic Development Facility

Only $5 for 5 months

Johnny Oppert set down the first bricks and building blocks to Wallace College athletic programs back in 1965.

Now 55 years later, the Dothan community college is adding more building blocks — and will honor the man who set down the first ones in doing so.

Wallace College announced Wednesday it will break ground in August on a new athletic development facility for its baseball and softball teams. The 9,900 square-foot multi-purpose indoor facility will be named the Coach Johnny Oppert Athletic Development Facility.

Oppert was the first baseball coach and athletic director in Wallace College history. He started the Govs basketball program in 1965 and the baseball team two years later. He led the programs through the 1992 season, guiding Wallace baseball teams to a 350-300 record over 26 seasons. He is a member of the Alabama Community College Conference Hall of Fame for his years of service at Wallace.

A Dothan native who played briefly in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system and was also a coach at Wicksburg High School, Girard Junior High and Houston Academy over a 44-year coaching career, Oppert is a member of the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame.

“Coach Oppert is a Wiregrass sports legend. His influence on the growth of sports at Wallace is a story known to many, especially the athletes who had the privilege of having him as a coach and mentor,” Wallace president Dr. Linda Young said. “He not only coached these young men on how to win and excel in baseball, but also how to succeed in life. Wallace is committed to investing in student success. Coach Oppert began his commitment on his first day at Wallace in 1965.”

Dr. Ryan Spry, director of student and campus services at Wallace College, said it was only fitting to name the facility after Oppert.

“It’s fitting that this facility will be named after coach Johnny Oppert, as his life has been highlighted by an intentionality to deepen the personal development of others,” Spry said. “Coach Oppert is a legend in the Wiregrass, and I am thrilled we will be able to recognize his contributions and service to the college in this manner.”

The new athletic facility will house three batting cages with retractable netting, allowing space for fielding drills. It will also have two lanes for pitching mounds.

The facility is the first of its kind within the Alabama Community College Conference, making it a premier recruiting tool for the Wallace baseball and softball programs to utilize.

Wallace officials expect the facility to be ready for the 2021 baseball and softball seasons.

Wallace baseball coach Mackey Sasser said the facility is badly needed for the Govs baseball and softball programs.

“Right now, when we have rain or other inclement weather on campus, our student-athletes have no place to practice,” Sasser said. “If we get a few days or a week of bad weather, their inability to develop their skills will negatively affect our performance on the field, so this facility is going to be of great benefit to our programs, our college, and most importantly, our student-athletes.”

The college, in partnership with the Wallace Community College (WCC) Foundation, is asking for the community’s support in raising funds to assist in the cost of building the facility. For information on how to support this project, contact Dr. Tracy Brooks at tbrooks@wallace.edu or at (334) 556-2626. The WCC Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization and all donations to this project are tax-deductible.

In addition to his Wallace College days, Oppert also coached football, basketball and golf during his stints at Wicksburg (four years), Girard (two years) and Houston Academy (12 years)

Last December, the city of Dothan recognized him by naming the basketball court at the Dothan Civic Center, Johnny Oppert Court.

In addition to his induction in the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame and Community College Conference, Oppert was inducted this past February into the Houston Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2001, he was also inducted into the Samford Baseball Hall of Fame where he played for the Bulldogs from 1956-59 when the school was known as Howard College after graduating from Dothan High in 1955. He starred on both offense and defense at Howard, playing every inning for four seasons. He led the Bulldogs in hitting as a junior with a .411 average and had a .322 average his senior season.

Oppert then played four years in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor leagues, playing in Odessa, Texas, in Panama City and finally in the Alabama-Florida League for Ozark/Andalusia.

David is sports writer for Dothan Eagle.

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