Mark Speight grew up in Branson when it was, as he put it, “a little country town,” where if a family owned a TV, it got only two channels. So, yes, he spent most of his days out of the house, playing sports.
Even better, the lessons he learned from sports endured.
“No question,” Speight said. “I’ve been around sports my entire life. I think the competition and the physical activities are what make them important. You learn how to compete because, in life, you have to compete. And the physical activities, they help you as a kid and when you are older.”
As the Sales Manager of Hiland Dairy Foods for 20 years, Speight made it a priority that he, his family and the company threw their support behind numerous causes – particularly athletics – and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to bestow upon him its President’s Award in 2017.
The honor will be bestowed during the Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, set for 11 a.m. Thursday at the University Plaza Convention Center in downtown Springfield. (See below for tickets & program details.)
Just as importantly, Speight and Hiland Dairy have backed the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper since its infancy in 1990, when the PGA Web.com Tour began an incredible run. Still going, the PCCC has gifted more than $13.8 million to Ozarks children’s charities.
To Speight, supporting the Hall of Fame is a way to honor coaches from small towns and, in doing so, show young coaches how to win the right way.
“What the coaches do is they help kids,” said Speight, who worked at Hiland Dairy for 36 years overall. “And that’s the most important thing to me and Hiland Dairy, and the Hall of Fame is one way to support that.”
Of the PCCC, he said, “It just helps kids. It gives almost a million dollars a year to kids in the community.”
Speight grew up in sports, playing baseball, basketball, football and golf before graduating from Branson High School in 1967. In the summers, “When our bat would break, we’d nail it and tape it,” he said. In golf, he was the golf team’s top player his junior and senior years, parlaying his talents into an athletic scholarship at Missouri State University.
He then graduated from Missouri State University in 1971, doing so with a double major of math and marketing – having focused on marketing when he had only three semesters left to graduate.
It was a decision that eventually benefited the entire state through his involvement with the Hall of Fame and the PCCC.
Speight’s first job after college was with the Department of Agriculture, where he oversaw milk pricing laws. The owner of Hiland Dairy soon recruited him back to Springfield, and Speight worked there until April 2017.
Along the way, Speight supported the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch, the Boys and Girls Club, Springfield Restaurant Association and the Ozark Empire Grocers Association, which in April 2017 named Speight its Outstanding Person of the Year. He also was recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives as an Outstanding Missouri Citizen.
“I was as much involved in the community as I was calling in customers,” Speight said. “I’d wake up and get ready to go to work and never dreaded it. I never knew what I was going to do. Most of my days weren’t planned.”
Like many families in Springfield, Speight and his wife of wife of 42 years, Sylvia, made sure their sons, Brian and Scott, were involved in sports. In fact, it’s common to see the entire family – daughters-in-law Katie and Diana and grandkids William, Tucker and Ava – out local sporting events.
Looking back, Speight cannot help but smile knowing that he didn’t sit on the sidelines, that he was active in the Springfield community – particularly through sports, one of the best ways for youths to build character.
That’s why he enjoys seeing coaches from across the state recognized for positively influencing so many youngsters and teens. He was recruited to the Board of Trustees years ago by Jerald Andrews, President and Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“When Jerald asked me to be on the board, it was a no-brainer,” Speight said. “And I’m going to stay on the board after I retire. It’s that important.”
MAY 25 — BASEBALL CELEBRATION
BILL VIRDON STATUE UNVEILING
When: 8:30 a.m. continental breakfast, 9 a.m. unveiling
Where: Legends Walkway of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive in southeast Springfield (about one mile east of the U.S. 60-65 interchange)
What: Unveiling of larger-than-life statue of West Plains grad and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder making a game-saving catch in Game 1 of the 1960 World Series
BASEBALL LUNCHEON PRESENTED BY OZARKS COCA-COLA/DR PEPPER BOTTLING COMPANY
When: 11 a.m. Thursday, May 25
Where: University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Springfield
President’s Award: Hiland Dairy’s Mark Speight
Inductees: Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow HS, Negro Leagues), former Westran and Sturgeon coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo/St. Louis media), baseball coach Mark Stratton (Glendale High School/Drury University).
Diamond 9 Awards: Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), , Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).
Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. Sponsorship tables are $400 and include recognition in the printed program and an autographed print. An individual ticket is $40, and a head table ticket is $100. Numerous other sponsorships, including congratulatory ads, also are available.