All Phillip King had to do was roll out the ball. The rest of the Pioneer alumni came.
Warren County held a baseball alumni game recently, bringing back several past Pioneer greats for a trip down memory lane. It was one of the first things King, who was named coach in August, has done since taking over.
“I thought it went great. It was great to see people I haven’t seen in a long time,” said King, a 1989 graduate at WCHS. “There were a couple guys I played with and a couple guys I helped coach when I was an assistant with Jimmy Walker in the mid-1990s. There were also some guys I didn’t know and it was neat to meet some of the guys who were playing while I gone.”
The idea of an alumni game has been batted around for years, but picking a weekend is always a challenge in the fall. Battling parent responsibilities and ever-changing schedules, along with Mother Nature, has hurt past plans.
Luckily, this time nearly 20 players showed up and the sun came out.
“It worked out perfect. We had great weather. It was neat to have people in the stands – parents who were getting to watch their kids who may not have played for 10 years.”
The state championship team from 1992 was represented by JW Holt, Brent Whitlock and Jason Norris. To help make the teams even, Holt and Norris had their sons playing centerfield for the respective squads.
Jacob Holt and Brady Norris made their share of plays patrolling the outfield and were given a chance to hit as well.
While the young kids turned heads, the presence of Ron Lee seemed to blow everybody away. Lee, who played for the Pioneers before graduating in 1971, came to watch, but the lure of the field was too much to resist.
“Ron was a standout. I walked in and saw him with the 50 years of Pioneers sweater and his annual showing with the 1970 squad. He ended up being MVP – he was making diving plays and went 4-for-5 at the plate,” said King.
Logan Underhill, class of 2014, was one of the youngest players and it showed. Underhill is just a year removed from finishing his career at Martin Methodist and his swing hadn’t slowed down.
He was roping shots to the fence off the pitching machine - the team’s second MVP.
“The best decision was to use the pitching machine,” said Holt, who had one of the game’s biggest hits - a scalding three-run double down the right-field line during a big inning for his squad. “It even allowed us pitchers to hit. The game was very enjoyable.”
King concurred with Holt about the use of the pitching machine.
“There was no pressure for guys to figure out how to throw three innings or guys worrying about how to hit a curveball,” said King.
While there were no pitchers, Bradford Watson and Lee Carden still got to get behind the plate once again. Watson, class of 1998, and Carden, class of 2014, each enjoyed getting back on the diamond.
“I had a blast. I love getting back to Warren County for these. I believe it was only the second time since I graduated in 1998 that they’ve done this. It means a lot to me because my family gets to see me play,” said Watson.
Carden added, “It was a fun experience to get back out there and suit up with the guys for a few hours.”
While the alumni loved getting out on the field and showing off their letterman jackets and old memorabilia, it was also a chance for them to see the facilities for the first time. All came away ready to put their full support behind King and his staff.
“I feel that with the current coaching staff, the alumni game will continue to grow and we will have a chance to meet a lot of fellow Pioneers. I was very impressed with all the work the staff has put into improving the field house and the field,” said Holt.
Carden also offered high praise.
“Coach King and his staff are full of energy with a great vision for the program. He’s doing a great thing by getting the past players involved so it spreads through the community.”
King is already making plans for next year’s event, one he hopes brings back even more Pioneers. He’s still building – and Pioneers are waiting to come.