So when athletic director Ron Coombs had to fill the position of head coach, he turned to the man who originally developed the program into a perennial contender from 1980 to 2003.
John Phenix will resume head coaching responsibilities after beating out 10 other applicants for the job.
“The committee was impressed by his dedication, and obviously his track record is more than proven,” Coombs said. “I think his excitement for being back, he’s been with the program the past two years and has a familiarity with the kids. His expertise is above reproach.”
Phenix resigned from his post after the 2003 season, a year before the Raiders qualified for the state tournament after reaching the regional championship game. That was also the last time the Blue and Gold has been spotted on the final day of regionals.
Phenix then assisted the softball program under Ray Charles until Charles took over the baseball program two years ago and Phenix came with him.
Despite the bitterness of how the Charles regime ended over the summer, Coombs wasn’t worried about separating the program from that controversy and going a different direction by hiring an outsider. Phenix was still the clear choice.
“Obviously things didn’t work out with Ray, but the way John took over the reins heading into the playoffs, and the way he guided them, it was a clear indication that he’s without a doubt one of the top baseball people in area,” Coombs said.
Phenix, who is now retired, is looking forward to this opportunity and taking on the challenges that differed from when he was last a head coach 10 years ago.
“I missed the coaching aspect of it, although I did enjoy being an assistant for awhile there. Sometimes you also like being the head guy. Once it opened up in this situation, I wanted to see the program come back strong and hopefully we can do that right away,” Phenix said. “I thought last year the kids’ attitudes were great. We may not be as deep as we used to be as far as position wise. It’s hard to compare. I’ll have a better comparison after this year. Because other than the juniors who were on varsity, I don’t really know them. It’s going to be fun for me to evaluate.”
And so far it appears Phenix has the blessing of Reed baseball parents, who generally haven’t been pleased with the past three head coaches.
“We certainly have had their input believe me. My inbox daily has had input regarding the baseball position,” Coombs said. “We did have three parents on the committee. I think the input overall has been positive. John has been recommended by more than his fair share. I would say it was about 3-to-1. These are all unsolicited.”
Phenix is looking forward to working with the parents because he knows there is plenty of work to be done. A group of parents formed a dugout club in order to raise funds to fix the field. The infield has been replaced, but the outfield is torn up again from the football team practicing on it.
“I feel like I have a lot of support and even from parents I don’t know,” Phenix said. “That was probably one of the big factors for coming back other than loving the game, was just coming back and dealing with those kids. Just from talking to people and hearing the comments, there seems to be a lot of support for the program. I’m sure they will support the decision, but they really want the program to come back strong.”