LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- With Saturday's doubleheader sweep of Berea College to open the 2013 season, Covenant head baseball coach Doug Simons achieved career coaching wins No. 100 and 101. All those wins seem a long way from when Simons first stepped foot onto the Covenant campus eight years ago.
Simons, a former Major League Baseball player for the New York Mets and Montreal Expos, came to Covenant for the purpose of rebuilding a baseball program after the school had not fielded a team since the 1970s. After the first season of club competition, Covenant elevated the program to the varsity level in 2007.
The first few years were rough on the program as the Scots won just six games the first two seasons. In 2009, the program began to turn around in the win-loss column as Covenant came away with 15 victories.
"Coach Simons knew what kind of team he wanted to build, he knew the kind of player he wanted to recruit and what kind of culture he wanted his team to have," said former player Tyler Smith who holds the Covenant record for pitching wins. "By staying true to his vision and true to the mission of Covenant College, he has built a very good program."
Staying with the plan, Simons saw his program begin to flourish. Each of the last three seasons has yielded 21 or more victories and overall records at or above the .500 mark. Covenant had runner-up finishes in the NCCAA Mid-East Regional tournament in 2010 and 2011.
But for Simons and his players, it's not always about how many games they won or lost. Simons has built the program on the foundation that he "wants to give young men in our program the opportunity to grow in Christ, get a great education and develop into players who could play at the next level."
Former players and colleagues alike can attest to this sound philosophy. Luke Furuto, who played for Simons for four years from 2008-11, said that "the world may define success by the win column, but Coach Simons taught me that success is better gauged by faithfulness. Coach Simons has been a constant example to me of what it means to walk faithfully as a coach, father, friend, and as a man of God."
Combining aspects of coaching excellence and a desire to see players grow spiritually is a tough combination to find in a baseball coach.
Assistant coach Ben Wharton is in the unique position of having played against a Simons-led Covenant team while a player at Bryan College, and then coaching with Simons since 2008. "I have not met another coach who better combines his love for teaching baseball and his desire for young men to grow in their relationship with the Lord," commented Wharton. "He truly loves his players and values them regardless of their playing ability."
Former NCCAA Mid-East Region Player of the Year, and now assistant coach for Simons, James Rollins echoed Wharton's sentiments. "I think it is very rare to find a coach with Simons' resume and his knowledge of baseball who also truly loves the Lord and holds his players to that standard," said Rollins, whose brother, Chris, is a junior on this season's team. "It was such a blessing to be able to get in long baseball discussions but also have long theological discussions. It is an honor to have played under him and now to coach under him."
Simons expects the most from his players both on and off the field. Many of them admire the coach for helping them in both their ability to play baseball at a high level, and also gain a greater understanding of what it takes to be a Christ-like figure.
"Coach Simons is a great coach and a great man," added Jared Carlson, a three-year player under Simons, who graduated in 2011. "He taught us as players what it meant to play hard on and off the field and always wanted to build great men first, and then great players."
Smith added that "Coach Simons has had a huge impact on my life, both as a player but also as a man. He invests so much time in his players that you can't go through the program without becoming a better player and man. Coach Simons has never compromised his values to win and that's a testament to the man and coach he is."
Perhaps Wharton summed up Simons and the Covenant baseball program perfectly. "While most coaches see 100 wins as a success, Coach Simons measures success not by wins and losses, but by the impact he has on the young men God has entrusted to him," said the assistant coach. "I have learned through his example more of what it means to be a Christian coach, father, and husband."