One would think after coaching nearly 1,100 varsity baseball games over 38 seasons that Taylor High School coach George Phares would qualify for a little time off.

To a point, he recently ensured that would happen by officially retiring as Taylor’s coach. But as for any kind of extended vacation — well, that’s just not going to happen.

Beginning this fall, the 60-year-old Phares is starting a new career as an assistant coach in the Indiana Wesleyan baseball program. Phares will still coach the Taylor girls golf team.

While Phares doesn’t yet know what role he’ll play for IWU coach Mark DeMichael, he does know he’ll be making the 35-minute drive to Marion on a pretty regular basis this coming school year.

“I’ve always had the desire to coach at the college level,” Phares said. “Especially the last three to four years, I’ve had that itching.”

Phares is especially excited about joining DeMichael’s program which next season will have seven Kokomo-area players in uniform.

“I credit [DeMichael] with saving my son Tim’s career after he suffered a compound fracture,” he said. “We’ve had several players go to [IWU] and we’ve enjoyed our time there. [DeMichael] offered me a job last year and I turned it down, but this is the right time.”

Phares retired from teaching a year ago and he said that decision eventually led him to leaving Taylor baseball.

“It bothered me because since I wasn’t at school, I couldn’t get some of the kids out for baseball,” Phares said. “We aren’t talking about star players, but certainly the fringe players. When I was at school, I could talk to some of those kids who might have been in a little trouble or been struggling with their grades. A lot of our program’s success has come from those fringe players and it’s really been important in the lives of those kids that they had some success.”

Brent Owens played for Phares in 1985-88 and he said the coach’s love of kids made him special.

“He was a player’s coach,” Owens said. “Players related to him and played hard for him because they wanted to make [Phares] proud. To him, it was more than just coaching baseball, it was a relationship. To this day, he’s still a great friend and I know he’s had a tremendous impact on the lives of a lot of kids because of his coaching philosophy.”

Taylor’s baseball program is one of central Indiana’s most respected — and with good reason. Since the spring of 1977 when Phares stepped in, the Titans have assembled an impressive 537-321 won-lost record. Taylor won or shared 11 Mid-Indiana Conference titles during that stretch and in 2000, captured the school’s only team state championship. Taylor crushed North Montgomery 12-1 for the Class 2A championship.

Phares jokes that his greatest satisfaction has come from coaching for 38 years and not being fired.

“That doesn’t happen often,” he said, noting the high number of second-generation athletes who have played for him. “But to coach that long, win that many games, be inducted into the Hall of Fame and have the field named after you — none of that happens without great players and [assistant] coaches.

“One of the things I am most proud of is that in my 31 years at Taylor, we’ve had 14 players chosen for the North-South all-star game. That’s pretty impressive for a school our size.”

The wins, losses and championships may blur in time, but Phares says he’ll always remember the relationships he’s had with members of the coaching fraternity.

Western’s Ty Calloway was one of his greatest coaching rivals — and friends.

“We were competitors on the field but best friends off,” Calloway said. “We vacationed and went to clinics together. We have a lot of good memories.

“[Phares] is a great teacher of the game and he has a great passion for baseball. His players saw that and were always motivated. You talk about kids that would run through a wall for their coach — well, they’d do that for him.”

Phares will tell you the journey has been special because of his family, including wife Martha who he said has sat through more games than anyone could imagine. Son Tim played for him at Taylor then after college, assisted five seasons in the Brebeuf Jesuit Prepatory High School baseball program before getting into administrative work in the Carmel system. Daughters Jennifer and Susan were Taylor bat-girls and played golf at Taylor for their father.

To steal a Hollywood movie line — “George has had a wonderful life.”

Phares agrees. “Oh,” he said, “I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Phares file:

• Family: Wife, Martha; children Tim, Jennifer and Susan.

• Education: Graduate of Shelbyville H.S. (1965) and Indiana State University (1969)

• Varsity baseball coaching: 7 years at Morristown H.S. (119-91); 31 years at Taylor H.S. (537-321).

• Championships: Won or shared 11 Mid-Indiana Conference; four sectional; three regional; two state finals appearances; 2000 Class 2A state champs.

• Honors: Inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004; Taylor’s baseball field named “Phares Field” in 2006.

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