WSN baseball’s Campbell reflects on season for Eagles

Campbell office
For some time now, W.S. Neal Eagle head baseball coach Coy Campbell has been looking forward to the 2013 baseball season in East Brewton.
Sixteen games into the season, with a 16-0 record and ranked No. 1 in all four baseball polls this year, one now knows why.
“These seniors this year, we knew with that group as a freshman, we knew if they all stayed together, we would have a good ball club that year,” Campbell said. “Not necessarily just that group because it has taken a lot of those players over the last five years to combine with this group to get us where we are at. It has not just been a one-group team that has come through. We have had a lot of good players over the last three or four years that have contributed to our success that we are having now. It has just been a process over this time. We felt like we were going to get there. This team has just continued to do what they have done.”
In 2008, as seventh graders, the team went 15-12 and won the area championship but lost to Thomasville in round one. In 2009, W.S. Neal went 10-9 and failed to make the playoffs and in 2010 failed to make the playoffs after going 13-13.
In 2011 as sophomores, the Eagles went 21-8 before losing to state champion UMS-Wright. Last year, W.S. Neal finished 23-12. The Eagles defeated Saraland in round one before losing to UMS-Wright in round two.
“As ninth graders, we were in there with Thomasville and Jackson and getting our brains beat out,” Campbell said. “In 2011 and 2012, they win the area as sophomores and juniors. They have been battle-tested. We played the Saraland’s and the UMS’ and it is nothing new to them in my opinion. It is no easier this year with Miller and Bayside. It always seems like in every region we are in, there is always three teams trying for those two spots. As freshman, we were always that third team looking to get in. Now our kid’s mindset is it is the other guys trying to get in. That is how the whole transformation has taken part. Our kids believe that they are going to win. Whether we do or not, that has yet to be seen. That is the biggest part of the battle.”
The 43-year-old Campbell has been a head coach since 1999 when he was at Northview in Florida. He came to W.S. Neal in the fall of 2001 and was head coach of the baseball team in the spring of 2002. Between the two schools he has 254 wins and picked up his 250th overall win last Saturday with an area win over Cottage Hill.
Campbell played at Patrick Henry (now Alabama Southern in Monroeville). He then went to Huntingdon for one semester in the fall of 1989 and then transferred to UWF over the Christmas holidays and finished up there. He went back to UWF in 1994 as a graduate assistant/assistant coach. He finished up his degree there and coached for two years as the infield coach from spring of 1995-1997.
“Getting 250 wins is a good accomplishment,” he said. “I have had a lot of good players and a lot of good assistant coaches. It is not necessarily about me, it is about them. Everywhere I have been, they have bought into what we have tried to instill in them about the game of baseball and life. I have not necessarily had great, great players, but everywhere I have been, the kids have played hard for me. I don’t know if that is necessarily about me, but they have played hard and that is all you can ask for as a coach.”
While having good players and assistants has been part of the formula, according to Campbell, there is another secret ingredient behind his success.
“Every good coach has to have a good wife,” he said. “My wife has been real good to me. There are a lot of times that we are not there during the season. She has been a blessing to me and I have two healthy boys. Sometimes when you get a family, your whole perspective changes and I give a lot of credit to her.”
With over 250 wins under his belt as a head coach in 15 years as a head coach, Campbell said there have been many influences in his life and made him into the coach he is today.
“I have had a lot of good coaches that have coached me all the way back to Little League,” he said. “My dad coached me and then Earnie White and Eddie Hammonds in Babe Ruth. There have been a lot of good teams in the tri-county and the Century, Flomaton and Jay area. In high school Mark Bagley was my high school coach. He was a real good coach and was a real disciplinarian and real hard. I guess if there is one guy that I try to follow or model myself after it would be him. He really sticks out in my mind.”
So what about this year’s team? The team is currently 16-0 overall and is 2-0 in area play and have been ranked as the No. 1 team in class 3A since the season started.
“To be 16-0 is a great accomplishment,” Campbell said. “It is nothing we talk about around here. From game one, we have had the mindset that we take it one game at a time this year and go from there. Once the rankings came out, I was surprised and we were surprised. I don’t know how many people actually see us play that make those rankings, but I do know whether we are the No. 1 team in the state or not, this group that I have got, plays hard every time out. Whether we make the playoffs or not this year, certainly we are shooting for that, over these last nine games that we have got, our kids are going to play hard until it is over.”
While his team is currently 16-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state, his team has two big area game series left on the schedule in their final nine games of the year. W.S. Neal takes on rival T.R. Miller this Thursday and Friday and Bayside Academy later in the year. Both are huge playoff series with all three teams trying to get into the playoffs.
The series and final games of the season are also big for the Eagles in trying to stay undefeated this year.
“I think coming 16-0 and looking at the broad perspective, I don’t think there is a team in the state of Alabama that has ever went undefeated the whole year, Campbell said. “Do I think we will lose one over these next nine games? Yes. Do I think it will affect our kids? No. We have Miller and Bayside next and those are the next two important series. We always talk about here that you can win every game and lose two of the three area series and it is all for naught. Those are the games that really matter. Miller is going to be a tough series. I know we will see Kevin (Davis) in one of those games over there. We faced him earlier and had some success that game. Not saying we are going to have success again, but our kids believe they are going to win. Is that a big task? Yes. We will be there, we will show up and we will play. We will see where it falls. The health of our team this year over year’s past is we only had one or two pitchers that we could run out there. This year we have four or five that have had success on the mound and in a three-game series, you have to have more than two arms. Hopefully, our guys will continue to throw strikes and we will play defense and try to find a way to score some runs.”
Even though Campbell said he and his club keep things quiet about being undefeated and being on top of the rankings, he says as a coach this year, it has been very gratifying.
“To see these guys grow over their high school careers is nice,” he said. “I have had Keith Bradley since his seventh grade year. Almost half of his high school career, I have had him. As coaches we are kind of like parents. You raise them and want to see them succeed. It has been a blessing. How it will finish, we don’t know, but it has been very gratifying to me and we are hoping and wishing for the best. However it happens, we will take it however it falls out.”
So what makes this team different from others and so special?
“I have been around some of the players on this year’s team since they were in the ninth grade and even the eighth grade for some of them,” Campbell said. “I know what I am going to get with these guys. They give me everything that they have got until it is all said and done. And that is what is special about this group this year. They play hard every time they go out whether it is a game or practice. They give me what they got.”
Campbell said getting into the playoffs is the hardest part of the season, but if and when his team gets in, he things they will be just fine.
“To see the season end, the big picture is to just get in the playoffs, he said. “That is the hardest part. Once you get in, everyone starts over and is 0-0. It is best two-out-of-three and take your chances. I feel like if we can get in, we are going to be a hard team to beat in a three-game series. Am I going to be disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs? Yes. At the same time, I am extremely proud of these kids in what they have accomplished so far. Not necessarily this year, but what they have accomplished over their high school careers with me. They have made my job a lot easier.”
W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller will meet Thursday in Brewton at 5 p.m. On Friday, the two teams will meet at 4 and 6 p.m. in East Brewton.
W.S. Neal had a chance to move to 17-0 Tuesday night at home when they hosted Monroe County. See Saturday’s paper for a full recap of Tuesday’s game.
(WSN won Tuesday night over Monroe County 12-2 to improve to 17-0)