SHEPHERDSVILLE - First-year Bullitt Central baseball coach G.J. Moore had a big job ahead of him when he took over the program last fall.
There is a basis for the program in history and tradition, but in the recent past the Cougars have not been a good program. While the overall numbers have remained positive, a winning expectation and fundamental skills were somewhat lacking.
No coach can change all of that in one year. Moore and the Cougars picked up ten wins this season, but then melted in the post-season, losing a run-rule game to Fairdale in the first game of the 24th District Tournament. In fact, over the past six years while Bullitt Central has been in the 24th District, they have not won more than the feed-in game between the fourth and fifth seeded teams.
Unlike Bullitt East baseball coach Jeff Bowles, as well as North Bullitt coach Brian Wise, who Moore once worked under, the new Bullitt Central coach does not have a strong feeder program providing him with baseball players. In fact, right now, there is pretty much no feeder program at all as the old Bullitt County Parks and Recreation Leagues are gone, replaced by whatever the YMCA wants to do, which unfortunately, does not involve anything remotely as challenging as Cal Ripkin/Babe Ruth or Little League play.
Bowles and Wise do good work with their programs. Bullitt East gets most of its players from the Mount Washington Youth Baseball League, or one of the area Mudcat ‘traveling’ teams. Almost every North Bullitt player has gone through the strong baseball league at Blue Lick. More than half of the Eagles’ large senior class this season can trace its’ development back to playing with the Under-12 Blue Lick All-Star team that won the East Kentucky state title, a few years ago.
In addition, even if they are not involved with those leagues, most of the Charger and Eagle players are within easy reach of a ‘traveling’ team in Louisville.
For Bowles and Wise, most, but certainly not all, of their work is done between Feb. 15 and early June.
Moore has a bigger job. He has to build a program from the ground up and not just for the kids already wearing maroon and gray. The complete team roster that the coach handed out at the beginning of the season had a number of seventh- and eighth-graders. None of them played on the varsity, but they did play for the freshmen team.
The demise of the Bullitt County Parks and Recreation Leagues, has forced young Shepherdsville and Lebanon Junction area players to either not play baseball or travel to Blue Lick or Mount Washington. Those leagues are certainly receptive to the new players.
Just in the past two weeks, we had a story here on Curtis Goins, a Bullitt Central senior, signing to play baseball at Campbellsville University. He is the first Cougar player to get a college grant in quite a few years. His younger brother, Casey, will be playing this summer with the Blue Lick All-Stars.
Ben Parker, who started the district tournament game for the Cougars on the mound this spring, is also playing for the Blue Lick All-Stars.
This year, for the first time that I can recall, Bullitt Central conducted a summer baseball camp. Moore is now running announcements for some baseball clinics that he will offer later in July. Those are both good steps in laying a better foundation.
Still, without a better youth program in the area, Moore has his work cut out.
For years, Bullitt Central struggled with football and baseball, but really for different reasons.
Bullitt Central hired Danny Leasor and now the football program is on solid ground. The young players are coming into the Cougar program with basically the same level of coaching as North Bullitt and Bullitt East players through the Greater Bullitt County Youth Football League. Leasor just needed to keep the players in the program and to provide some stability and leadership along with a sense of commitment and team work.
Moore at some point will have to provide those things also, but he can’t do that until there is a better pipeline for the players coming into the program.
It is a lot easier to get the real fundamentals for baseball when you are 10-years old, than when you are 15 or 16. That is a major hurdle for Bullitt Central players at this point.