Back in late April, when the Barton Community College Board of Trustees convened to renew one-year coaching contracts, approving nine, longtime head baseball coach Mike Warren, as well as track and field/cross country head coach Dave Schenek, didn’t have theirs renewed.
While Schenek is reportedly readying for the upcoming season without a contract, Warren is doing the same at Lawson-Biggs Field, as he’s preparing for his 30th campaign at Barton.
“Nobody is more disappointed than I am about our season last year,” said Warren, whose Cougars finished 15-34 overall last spring, including 10-22 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division. “Nobody took it harder than I did. It was the worst record I’ve ever had as a coach. We had a bad year and it’s hard to accept for me.
“Whether I have a contract or not, I’m still the baseball coach here. I’m still excited about next year. I’m very excited about the team that we have coming in, the recruiting job we’ve done. If there is doubt in anybody’s mind that I’m getting old, getting tired of doing this, my goal is to change their minds. The only way that I’m going to get off a baseball field coaching is because of health reasons. They’re going to have to drag me off the field.”
Warren said he is receiving the same pay and same benefits as he did when he was under contract.
Barton athletic director Trevor Rolfs, who has been away on the annual wheat harvest, has not returned phone calls to the Tribune.
In 29 seasons at Barton, Warren has posted an overall record of 872-605 and owns a career mark of 969-715, according to the school’s web site. His teams have won five Jayhawk West championships and two West sub-regional crowns, racking up 20 or more wins in 26 seasons and surpassing the 30-win mark 13 times. He led the Cougars to a school-record 44 wins in 2002.
“I feel like I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this program,” Warren said. “We’ve been fortunate here to have good players and we’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games. It’s what I do and it’s what I love to do. The main thing is that our kids, our players, have always been very respectful in the community, they have been very respectable at Barton and they’ve been very successful.
“And for me, there’s a lot more to coaching than just winning. Our previous worst record was in 1996. It’s the only losing record we’ve had here since I’ve been here. This past season was the second time it’s happened. For obvious reasons, we had a lot of things happen that were out of our control.”
The Cougars’ fortunes went awry as a rash of injuries occurred, starting with first baseman Allen Trent suffering life-threatening injuries from a car accident last summer to pitcher Skylar Hill being diagnosed with testicular cancer in mid-April.
Trent returned to play this past season, although he won’t be back this coming season, and Hill is headed for Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., where he signed to play last fall.
“At the same time, for my players’ sake, there are reasons for it,” Warren said of his team’s agonizing season. “I’m proud of the players that we ended up with last year because they battled every single day.
“Not once did they give up or give in. They were just outmanned. It started out with key injuries to key players.”
As for 2012 Great Bend High School product Jace Bowman, a returning sophomore second baseman, Warren said, “I think Jace will be a leader for us. Bowman is playing for the Arizona Sidewinders in a wood bat league in Tempe, Ariz.
“He’s playing four days, sometimes five days per week.”
Outfielder Mitch Kottas, also a 2012 GBHS graduate, is one of four players from Barton playing for the Boulder Collegians in Boulder, Colo., this summer.
“It’s a good wood bat league,” Warren said. “Mitch started to swing the bat well at the end of the season, and we’re kind of hoping he’s one of our key right-handed guys that can go in and get it done. Craig Nicks, a right-handed pitcher, and Drew Ferguson, a left-handed pitcher, along with Braxon Byfield, a catcher, and Mitch, they’re going to get some good experience with the Boulder Collegians.
“Most of those guys are playing against not only freshmen and sophomores, but some juniors- and seniors-to-be in college. It’s important to us that they go out, have good summers and take it seriously. It’s not a vacation. It’s not a beach party. It’s a place where they need to go and get better.”