Billy Stears knows a thing or two about pitching, thanks to decades as a softball coach.

These days, the St. Joseph’s Academy softball coach is thankful to doctors and friends who are making their best pitches for him.

Stears got a long-awaited heart transplant Aug. 29 at Houston’s Memorial Hermann hospital and continues his rehab/recovery near the hospital. There is no timetable set for his return to Baton Rouge.

“I know I’m fortunate,” Stears said. “A team of doctors evaluated my case. Two doctors really pushed for me. The rest weren’t sure I’d live through the procedure.

“I get tested every week to make sure my body isn’t rejecting the heart. That test has only come back positive once and that was not long after the surgery.

“We’re taking it one day at a time.”

Stears and his wife Sally are thankful for the support of family/friends and the medical staff. Stears receives a steady stream of texts and calls from his current and former players from either summer or high school softball.

A benefit softball tournament for Stears will be hosted by the Louisiana Patriots from Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Proceeds from the “We Believe in Billy Stears Tournament” will help defray medical expenses.

Teams can register and get information on the tourney at usfa.com.

Stears’ goal is to coach again some day and he said doctors believe it may be possible. That fact is amazing considering what Stears has gone through over the past year.

Stears, who worked at Dow Chemical for 40 years, had bypass surgery in December. Soon doctors found other vascular issues.

Stears was rejected as a transplant candidate in Louisiana. He wound up in Houston based on a recommendation by one of his doctors at Ochsner-New Orleans that led him to Dr. Pranac Loyalka, a cardiovascular disease specialist. His transplant was performed by Dr. Igor Gregoric. After the fact, the doctors told Stears and his family about the grim diagnosis they’d held back.

“(The transplant) came just in time,” Stears said. “(Doctors) told me I probably had two weeks left to live.”

St. Joseph’s Academy continues to offer its support. Stears stays in touch with SJA Athletic Director Dorinda Beaumont and his players through texts and phone calls.

First things come first. In addition to rehab, Stears is slowly working to regain strength and some of the 80 pounds he lost over the past year.

“I feel a little better each day,” Stears said. “We really appreciate all the love and support. It means the world to us.”

Roth reaches milestone

Congratulations to Rummel football coach Jay Roth, who won his 200th game Friday night. The top-ranked Raiders beat Holy Cross 21-14 to give the former Rummel and Nicholls State player his milestone win.

Roth’s father, Easton, is a former Rummel coach and is fixture locally at East Ascension High School and on Eatel broadcasts.

Of course, Roth’s milestone came a week after Catholic High coach Dale Weiner won his 300th game. That’s quite a double-double.