Longtime Cochise ambassador gets HoF call
The University of Arizona was looking at James “Bo” Hall, then a teenager in tiny Bowie, Arizona, a railroader’s town in the southeastern portion of the state, as a football player.
“They were recruiting me as a linebacker, but the real truth of it is that they came to watch me punt because I led the state in punting my junior year,” Hall said. “You know how you get a little smarter when you get older and you start seeing things differently? I’m sure they knew I could play linebacker, and they were saying ‘you can come play some linebacker for us,’ but I think they were looking at me as a punter. I didn’t really like that, because I like playing in the game. Being out there for every play. I like to compete.”
Bo Hall — always a competitor.
An injury during his senior year of high school prematurely ended his football career and Hall longed for something else.
Hall walked on to the Cochise College baseball team, starting what would be a decades-long passion with a sport, as Hall says, that “nobody ever came to see me play.”
A long and storied career as a player, manager and athletic director — many of those years with Cochise — led to Hall being inducted into the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
“I feel like God has blessed me through baseball,” Hall said. “I look back, and baseball allowed me to do all these things. My dad was a railroader, and we moved around a lot. He passed away when I was in fifth grade and Bowie was where we stuck. Baseball gave me my opportunity and my chance.”
As a player, Hall moved on to Grand Canyon University after his time at Cochise. He attended spring training with the San Francisco Giants, but was cut. He played professionally in Mexico before returning to the United States to coach at Eastern Arizona College in the late 1970s.
Starting as a young coach, Hall made room on his roster for Darren Starr, a young catcher out of Fruita.
A connection through Gene Taylor resulted in Starr visiting Pepperdine University late in the school year. While there, Starr found out the Waves wouldn’t have a scholarship available until the next year, and that the steep tuition costs would be too much for his family to cover while he waited for something to open up.
So Starr looked for another opportunity to play baseball, and Hall provided it.
Hall’s early teams were a mishmash of talent from across the western part of the country. Starr said the team wasn’t the most talented and games rarely were smooth, but they never quit. That was thanks to Hall.
“Back then, Arizona was the best of the best in terms of junior college baseball,” Starr said. “Bo’s competitiveness, his goal, was to build a team that could compete.
“When you look at us, we weren’t physically imposing. Our third basemen was bow-legged, none of us were the most athletic, but we probably came from behind 15 times in the first year to win games. He brought something out in these kids that maybe weren’t the most talented.
“He’s extremely competitive and it rubs off. One of his deals was having to run a mile in a certain time. We’d run it and the players who made it wouldn’t have to run it again. But if you didn’t, you’d be back the next night until you got it. He’d be sitting there in a lawn chair, basically telling us he could be there until the cows come home. It was his way and it was awesome to be a part of it.”
The competitive nature also had a softer side. Starr said his coach worked with every player, both on and off the field, to really connect.
For Starr, that came in learning how to hit off-speed pitches.
“Individually, coming out of the Western League and Fruita, I didn’t see any really good pitching, and the guys who could pitch challenged you with the fastball,” Starr said. “So when I’m down there, Bo Hall’s in third-base coach’s box trying to guess what pitch is coming. Stuff like that. He’s looking for every way to help these kids be successful, not only with baseball but with life.
“He was also right in there with you. As he coached, Bo was probably the most in shape out of all of us. Basically a statue, 240 pounds, huge shoulders, always in the weight room. He inspired us and, honestly, he scared the (crap) out of us. Just a great man, a great person, a great motivator and a great coach.”
Hall said coaching changed his outlook on baseball.
“I’ve always loved to compete,” Hall said. “The difference between playing and coaching — I love winning and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — but teaching the game, teaching these kids important things, that baseball is a microcosm of life where if you’re on time, work hard and work with other people, good things can happen.
“But it doesn’t come easy and perseverance is key. The biggest joy as a coach was watching my kids get degrees and become positive contributors to society. There’s a lot of winning and losing in coaching, but the other things are always there. Don’t get me wrong, I like to win, but those are the things that stick with you.”