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Magical season for South Decatur


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South Decatur baseball coach Andy Seegers peered into the trophy cases at his school, looking for past championship teams.

He looked through one case, then another. He saw little gold men and women holding basketballs, footballs and softballs.

But where were the baseball trophies?

Eventually, he stood in front of a blown-up photo of a championship team. There was coach Seegers, alongside some very special athletes.

Bill Seegers. Andy’s dad.

The photo was from 1976, the last time South Decatur won a sectional baseball championship.

As far as 35-year-old Andy Seegers, and those who have been around South Decatur for a couple of generations, can remember, 36 seasons have passed since the Cougars won an outright conference championship.

Nobody will be counting anymore, though, as the Cougars went undefeated (8-0) in the Mid-Hoosier Athletic Conference.

Andy Seegers and his players won a co-Mid Hoosier title in 2010, but this year’s team finally went that extra step.

“This is pretty special,” said Seegers, who is finishing his seventh season as head coach and his ninth overall at his alma mater. “This group of guys that are here makes it special.”

Seegers got an idea that the 2013 season was going to be special when his daughter, Lily, was born the first week of practice. He also knew he had four accomplished seniors in Matt Gatewood, Connor Hermesch, Taylor Campos and Byron Balser to lead the effort.

“We have a lot of confidence going into sectionals,” said Gatewood, who received a baseball scholarship from Valparaiso. “We’re going tonight to get Mohawks.”

Gatewood said that the coaches would have their hair cut “mohawk” style if the Cougars win a sectional title.

Ever the head coach, Seegers didn’t want to get in front of himself. “We have to win a sectional title first,” he warned.

Gatewood stared him down.

“But, yeah, if we did win, it probably would happen,” Seegers said.

His wife, Becky, probably would take it in stride, as she has done with most things that pop up for a high school coach at a small school. “She has been great,” Seegers said, explaining that she has had to endure all kinds of cancellations that come with being a coach’s wife. “She puts up with a lot.”

On the other hand, baseball at South Decatur is all about family for Seegers, who didn’t take the job because he thought he would win endless championships.

Right before he took the job, South Decatur had lost 69 consecutive baseball games. His team won only three games his first season.

“I love baseball, and this is my home school,” he said. “I never question that this is where I belong.”

He understood that a school with 280 students from ninth through 12th grades probably wasn’t going to stock his baseball team with talent, especially since the area’s feeder system hasn’t been the best.

Even so, he is happy coaching all comers who show up the first day of baseball practice. He has 16 players on his roster this season; and, as he has done is his previous years, he didn’t cut anyone.

Then there are those special moments. He remembers the day when his team won a Mid-Hoosier co-championship in 2010. It was his daughter Laney’s first birthday.

The team got together for a photo, and Laney squeezed into the shot.

“I asked her how old she was and she held up one finger,” Seegers said. “All the players put up one finger. It was a special moment for the team and my family.”

His hope is that more of those moments are on the way for his players and his family.

“People in the community have been saying to me, ‘You’re having a decent season.’ I say, ‘No, we’re having a great season.’

“Our guys are getting their heads shaved, that’s cool stuff. The guys are excited.”

He knows he will cherish this season once the dust settles. He also knows that it will be a tough chore to match such success in the future.

Win or lose, though, Seegers wants to do his best to turn his players into champions.

“You never lose hope with kids,” he said. “If you lose hope, you’re finished.”

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.

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