3/14/2017 5:40:00 PM New season, new coach Jake Evans takes over head coaching duties for Reed-Custer baseball program
by Brent Sumner Staff writer
New coaches face new challenges, but for new Reed-Custer baseball coach Jake Evans, he steps up into a program that's well established.
Evans inherits a program that was groomed 43 years by Jerry Cougill, including a state championship last year.
While he won't face the trials of rebuilding a program from the ground up, Evans will still face the inevitable comparisons of him to Cougill, as well as the expectation to keep the program a powerhouse within the area.
However, there is probably no one better suited for the position. After all, Evans played for Cougill throughout middle school and high school and has come to learn what people expect out of the quality program.
Evans graduated from Reed-Custer in 2009, and was one of the starting pitchers during his varsity years.
After high school, he went on to St. Francis, where he majored in secondary education while also playing for the university's baseball team.
"Part of the reason I wanted to teach was to become a coach as well," he said. "It has always been something I wanted to do. I wasn't sure when I was going to get that opportunity, and it may have come sooner than I was expecting, but it was something I wanted to do."
Evans spent two years as the pitching coach under Cougill. He worked with several great pitchers, including Brent Headrick, Jordan Walden, and current player Eddie Wilkins.
He definitely had a hand in the team reaching, and eventually winning, the 2A State Championship last year.
While he will be the head coach this year, he still plans on staying with the pitching duties as well.
"I wanted to make sure I still did pitching duties," he said. "Coming from a pitching background, and being a pitching coach, I still wanted to have a say in that."
However, probably the biggest question is how will Evans compare to Cougill.
Cougill finished his career with an overall record of 805-454, two state titles, and several other Sectional, Regional and conference titles. Evans will have big shoes to fill.
For Evans though, he is trying not to focus on that.
"As hard as it is going to be not to compare myself to Cougill, that is something that I will try not to do," he said with a laugh. "I was sitting here the other day, and I thought to myself, he finished with over 800 wins, 40+ years. I would have to average 20 something wins over the next 40 years or something like that. I am not going to try and think about that."
Whether Evans wants to think about comparisons alongside Cougill or not, the public will.
"They will definitely compare us," he said. "I ran into people in the grocery store, and people come up and ask how the team is going to be.
"That is one thing about the community though, they genuinely care about Reed-Custer sports, and they show up in big numbers," Evans added. "We saw that through playoffs. The people in the community get excited, and we have them behind us. Hopefully we put on a good show."
Evans is meeting his coaching duties head on. He admits he will likely be unable to sleep the eve of the opener, but he will take the season one game at a time.
"The practices have been competitive and intense, and all of the guys come to work," he said. "It is kind of intimidating, but at the same time I feel very privileged to say I'm the next guy up after coach Cougill left. All of our varsity players coming back, along with the coaching staff, have made the transition a lot easier."
Evans will have experience on his side to help, even with the added departure of long-time assistant coach Rich Walden.
Jeff Richey, Chris Vidmar, Alex King, Bill Asbridge and Paul Kuiper will all be there to lend a hand to the new head coach.
"We are two different people, but in the terms of the way we feel about baseball, and the way it should be played, we are the same," said Evans about his philosophy compared with Cougill. "I am not trying to flip things over. In terms of basic philosophy and everything, very similar to coach Cougill."
Evans is looking forward to getting out on the field, and with weather permitting, the season will start on Saturday.