What many may consider a legend in the Knoxville youth sports community and an ambassador for the game of baseball, Webb Class of 1967 alumnus Vance Link III is the recipient of Webb School of Knoxville's Distinguished Alumnus/na Award for 2016.
Link has been a fixture in the growth and development of baseball programs at Knoxville’s Sequoyah and Lakeshore parks, coaching generations of young players and teaching them lessons that go beyond the baseball diamond. Perhaps best known for his “Vance Pitch” baseball, Link has for the past 40-plus years, from early April to mid-June, “coach-pitched” to countless youth league players. In all, Link estimates that he has thrown more than 768,000 pitches during his Pee Wee League career.
Included in the long list of players that Link has seen cross home plate are former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, former Vol baseball players Hunter Daniel and Parker Wormsley (Webb Class of 2011), Wofford pitcher Tom Dolinak (Webb Class of 2006), and Jordan Wormsley (Webb Class of 2006), who played outfield for Vanderbilt. In addition, former Knoxville mayors Victor Ashe and Randy Tyree, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (Webb Class of 1976), former Whitehouse Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, University of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Phillip Fulmer, and numerous other notable individuals, all had their children benefit from Link’s tutelage.
Vance Link entered Webb School in ninth grade. He began his lifelong love affair with baseball in 1958 when he started in Little League under longtime coach Lawrence House. Part of Tom’s Potato Chips, a team House coached for more than 50 years, Link and his teammates played at what was then called Polo Field on Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills. He continued to play organized baseball until he was 16, and then took a job as a groundskeeper at Sequoyah Park under the supervision of House.
Link later became the commissioner of Sequoyah Youth Baseball and together with House, guided the program through a period of tremendous growth. By the mid-1990s, Sequoyah Youth Baseball boasted four different leagues, 40 teams and 900 players, and was renamed Knox Youth Sports (KYS), offering year-round recreation with baseball in the fall, spring and summer, basketball in the winter, flag-football in the fall. Also, at about that time, the KYS baseball program moved to a new-state-of-the art baseball complex at Lakeshore Park.
Through all the changes, Link, who served on the KYS board until 2004, has continued to coach-pitch to young players. “As a man of faith,” he says, “I believe that God puts us all on Earth for a reason, and mine is to pitch baseball. I learn from the kids and they keep me young. I try to reciprocate by teaching them the rules and fun of playing America’s pastime, as well as how to win graciously and lose gracefully.”
Link received his bachelor’s degree in English from University of Tennessee. He is the recipient of the 2011 Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame/Boys & Girls Club Special Recognition Award, as well as the 2002 City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department (CKPRD) Volunteer Service Award. In 1997, Link, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, was named Knoxvillian of the Year by the Juvenile Diabetes Association. He also received the CKPRD Pap Dukes Memorial Award “For Contributions to Amateur Baseball in the Knoxville Community.”
For more than 50 years, Link has been actively involved with Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, including serving as deacon and elder. “My faith has been instrumental in every phase of my life,” he says.
Vance Link is married to wife, Robbie, and has two children, Whitney ’91 and J.V., and two grandchildren, Mason and Layna.