The local softball community lost a giant last week.
Bill Evans passed away on June 30.
He was 63 years old.
Family, friends, peers, and former colleagues and players spoke fondly of Evans, who dedicated more than 40 years of his life to coaching college, high school and travel softball.
“I really can’t put into words how I feel right now, but I can tell you that Heaven just gained the most gorgeous and uplifting human being that has ever graced this earth,” daughter/2019 Ceres High grad Shania Evans shared in an Instagram post following her father’s passing. “To anyone that has met my dad, they will tell you he was the biggest light in the room, despite any circumstances he was going through. He was my TRUE HERO, one of my best friends, and the best person to go to for any form of advice. He would dance and sing with me any time of day or watch our favorite tv shows. He was the person who taught me how to excel at all of my sports, and pushed me to be the best person I could be. He was my role model, and always had the best stories. I can go on and on, but I know he’s out of his wheelchair dancing around, playing sports, and fulfilling all of his dreams. I am heartbroken but I am also happy that my dad isn’t in pain anymore and isn’t confined to a wheelchair like he has been for the past 29 years.”
Manny Bejaran, 54, was one of Evans’ closest friends.
They coached softball together at Central Valley and Modesto Christian high schools, and at the travel-ball level.
“I’ve known Bill for years,” Bejaran said. “He got me started coaching when I was 22 or 23. He’s been a great mentor to me. I always went to Bill for advice. He was like an older brother I didn’t have. My daughter (Breonna) is his goddaughter. There wasn’t a second choice. We’re going to really miss him.”
“The guy was full of knowledge and love,” he added. “He was always positive. He was always thinking about other people. He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve known.”
Sara Norwood, a 1993 Ceres High grad, played for Evans during her freshman and sophomore years.
She ranked third on the state of California’s all-time wins list (89) when she concluded her pitching career with the Bulldogs.
Norwood earned a scholarship to NCAA Division-I Coastal Carolina University.
“He helped me with not just softball but life in general at that time,” said Norwood, 45. “He was like a second dad to me. He inspired me to be a better person.”
Jimmy Dyson coached together with Evans for three seasons (1992-94) at Ceres High School.
“I started giving pitching lessons to Sara,” said Dyson, 61. “That’s how I met Billy. We hit it off and became friends. Billy actually introduced me to my wife.”
Dyson and Evans used to be co-owners of a softball academy in Ceres.
“Softball was Billy’s life,” Dyson said. “He was one of Ceres High’s first great coaches.”
Mike Corsaut, current leader of Ceres High’s softball program, met Evans for the first time 25 years ago.
“He was an amazing man. He was always more than willing to give advice. He was so knowledgeable. He had a huge impact on the softball community."Mike Corsaut
“I’ve known him for as long as I’ve been coaching,” he said. “He was an amazing man. He was always more than willing to give advice. He was so knowledgeable. He had a huge impact on the softball community. We’re going to establish a Bill Evans Memorial Scholarship next year. We’re planning on naming our softball tournament after him.”
Evans continued to coach softball at Ceres High after a slip-and-slide accident left him a quadriplegic in 1991.
He was just 35 years old when he fractured his neck.
“A lot of people would have fallen apart in the situation he was in but he didn’t,” Norwood said. “He became a stronger person. He was very optimistic. That’s what was so inspirational about him.”
“Everywhere you went in the 1990s, everybody knew Billy,” Dyson said. “He was a pioneer in this game. He helped me with my career. He motivated and inspired the kids. He made a lot of people believe in themselves.”
Evans leaves behind siblings Linda Lewis of Hayward, Rebecca Taylor of Oakdale, Paulette Durham of Mountain Ranch, and Deborah Easley of Old Hickory, TN, his wife of 25 years Neena Evans, children Shania Evans (Conner) of Ceres, Jean Sullivan (Scott) of Hughson, and Angela Sapien (Joe) of Santa Clarita, grandchildren Kenny Sullivan (Ashley) of Turlock, Devyn Sullivan (Rochelle) of Turlock, Breanna Sullivan of Modesto, and Kaitlan Barber (Devin) of Oakdale, and great-grandchild Sebastian.
He was preceded in death by parents William M. Evans and Pauline M. Evans, his sister Shirley Ramsey, and brothers Robert and Benny Evans.
Visitation services will be held today, from 4-7 p.m., at Village Chapel Church.
Graveside services will be held at noon on Thursday at Ceres Memorial Park.
Social distancing and masks are required.