It was a different kind of year for former St. Amant High baseball coach Bob Lemons.
Instead of being a head coach, Lemons was an assistant baseball coach at another Ascension Parish school, East Ascension.
The chance to serve as the head coach of the East squad for this weekend’s Louisiana High School Coaches Association’s All-Star baseball games at North Park in Denham Springs will bring Lemons back into the spotlight.
But it’s not the spotlight Lemons will relish. It’s how the honor came about, and the players and coaches he will work with that excites Lemons. Players report Friday and the first game at 7:30 that night. The second game is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Saturday. Maurepas’ Anthony Gregoire and Davey Clement of Lutcher will be the East assistant coaches.
“Appreciative is a word I use a lot these days,” Lemons said. “Over the last year, especially during the season, I’ve received so much support from both communities (St. Amant and East Ascension). I’ve had former players contact me, along with the parents of current and former players.
“They’ve made it point to tell me what I’ve meant in their lives or in the lives of their children. That’s a blessing. Most people never hear that because it’s what you talk about when a person dies. And to be picked by my peers to be the head coach for these two games means so much.”
Lemons took over as head coach at St. Amant in 1992-93 and won three straight Class 5A titles from 1993-95 when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Class 5A Tournament was played at North Park. The Gators added another title in 2004.
Last March when St. Amant was 5-9, the school announced Lemons had resigned for “personal reasons.” While Lemons remained silent, details emerged in days that followed on the Internet and other sources about conflicts with parents over playing time for some players.
The scenario is certainly not new to high school sports in the Baton Rouge area or around the nation. If I had a dollar for every story I’ve written about a sudden resignation or a school’s decision to “go in a different direction,” I might not be rich, but I’d certainly have more spending money.
Sometimes it is as simple as wins and losses or wanting to shake things by making a change. There are others when it is not. And there are always questions that linger.
St. Amant, now coached by ex-SAHS assistant Troy Templet, advanced to the 5A tournament this spring.
East Ascension lost in the opening round of the playoffs, and Lemons said he and EAHS head coach Mike Toups are looking forward to building toward the future this summer.
For the coaches, the decision to select Lemons as an all-star head coach was about more than wins and losses.
“We talked about it, and it was something we really wanted to do,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said.
Knowing Lemons had twice been an all-star assistant, but never the head coach, the Louisiana High School Baseball Coaches Association asked for and was granted approval by the LHSAA to make Lemons the East head coach in 2013.
Taking a cue from colleagues who found themselves in similar situations, Lemons has stayed on the high road. Lemons, who has never tallied up his coaching record, says he takes nothing for granted and simply takes it one day at a time.
“I’m looking forward to coaching a great group of players and working with some great coaches,” Lemons said. “I’ve got memories and stories from the other two times I was an all-star assistant coach. More than anything else, you want the players to showcase their skills and have fun.
“And you never know what will happen. One year, we had a kid from a small school who people didn’t know much about. He had two really good games and wound up getting a college scholarship.”
One St. Amant player, Madison Nickens, is on the East squad. Lemons said Nickens and his parents have reached out to say they’re excited about being on the same team again.
“That was special,” Lemons notes. “Hopefully, it will be a special weekend for everybody.”