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Loogootee Baseball gets a new look
By: Larry D. Hembree
   With the departure of Mike Wagoner to the boys’ basketball program, the Loogootee Lion baseball program will get a new look in the form of Roger Bailey.  Bailey, in addition to his head coaching responsibilities for tennis and his classroom duties as a Social Studies teacher, is enthusiastic about his latest coaching venture.  “I can feel an enthusiasm from the kids this year,” says Bailey.  “The kids have worked hard, many working on their own to get ready for this season.  I am pleased with their progress.  We have worked hard getting ready for the season.”
  Last year’s 16-13 club suffered from periodic defensive lapses and occasional pitching problems, and Coach Bailey knows these are areas this year’s team, as any team, needs sharp to stay competitive.  “I have five or six pitchers this year I can draw on, but Seniors Roland Slaubaugh and Patrick Bowling, along with Junior Wade Lamar, should give us a strong rotation,” Bailey said.  “Bowling came out from behind the plate this summer and pitched great for us in summer ball,” Bailey added. “We worked hard on our physical training and conditioning this year and I believe we are stronger and quicker.  That should help us defensively.”
   Coach Bailey has been employed for 11 years at Loogootee High School and he is no stranger around the baseball diamond.  Bailey, who graduated from Tecumseh High School in 1988, played baseball for the Braves, as well as tennis and basketball.  He attended Wabash Valley Junior College in Mt. Carmel, IL playing first base for the Warriors.  In his freshman season Wabash Valley captured the Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship along with the Region and Inter-Region titles to advance to the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. The Warriors finished third in the nation.
   Bailey earned his undergraduate degree from Oakland City University in 1994, after lettering two years for the Mighty Oaks baseball squad. He has also served as a varsity assistant at Wood Memorial, Pike Central, and the Loogootee baseball programs.  In 2002 Bailey led the Lady Lions basketball team to the Final Four.  Last season Bailey began his duties as the head tennis coach at LHS.  
   Bailey is optimistic about this season.  “I believe we can really hit the ball this year.  I see that as one of our greatest strengths.  If our pitching comes around and we can make some improvements in our defense, I think we will be an exciting team to watch.”  Bailey emphasized how hard some of the boys have worked in the off season getting ready to play.  “We’ve worked hard on our situational defense, and while we can always use improvement, we are heading in the right direction.”
  Talking with Coach Bailey, it was obvious he is enthused about this season.  He spoke of strengthening the schedule and was encouraged by the numbers coming out for baseball.  “We have twenty-two kids this year.  Finding playing time for that many kids will be tough, but that is a good problem to have,” Bailey said, half wondering, half pumped at the prospect of the rapidly approaching season.  The Lions open at home against the North Daviess Cougars on Friday, April 3 rd, at Les Page Field, a game that can be heard on WRZR 94.5 starting at 5:00 pm.
   Bailey also worked hard at getting a junior high baseball program set up.  While it is still all voluntary in terms of coaching, the Junior High Lions will play a healthy schedule of games.  “It was obvious that a long gap existed from Little League to high school, and we were losing too many kids,” Bailey said.  “I was surprised how many area schools had junior high programs.  We all met in Sullivan one Saturday and started scheduling games,” Bailey added.  “This will be good for the program.”
  All that remains for Coach Bailey and his baseball Lions is to start playing games and assess where this year’s team is and how far they have to go.  If the team matches its coach’s enthusiasm and confidence, the crack of the bats and the pop of gloves could yield a strong competitor and another sectional title.  Until that part of the season comes, there is a lot of baseball to play and the coach encourages everyone to come out and see this team in action.  “I’m confident they won’t be disappointed,” he said quite calculatingly.
Coach Bailey lives in Loogootee with his wife Jennifer (Chamness), a former Wood Memorial and OCU softball standout, and their three children: Breah, Dax, and Shae.