Today's Team and Coach preview takes us to West Johnston High School in North Carolina to preview Head Coach Joey Worley and his West Johnston Wildcats. With 18 years of coaching experience under his belt, Coach Worley is a highly respected coach in North Carolina, as well as on the summer travel ball scene. After a 14-8 campagin in 2014 Coach Worley's Wildcats look to make a deeper run in 2015 with the return of 6 starters led by Seniors Sterling Atkinson, Thomas Coggburn, Michael Blevins, Dalton List and Sophomore Noah Liles. With a deep conference full of top level arms Coach Worley's Wildcats must bring the sticks every night to make a championship run in 2015. Please enjoy today's Dynamic Team and Coach Preview with Coach Worley.
Coaches Name: Joey Worley
High School: West Johnston High School
City/State: Benson, NC
District/Conference: Greater Neuse River Conference
School Mascot: Wildcats
2014 Overall Record: 14-8
Ended Season with: Loss in 1st Round of playoffs to Richmond County (6-3)
Top returning players: Sterling Atkinson- 1B (2015) Tyler Tilson- C/OF (2015) Thomas Coggburn- RHP (2015) Michael Blevins- OF/RHP (2015) Dalton List- SS/RHP (2015) Noah Liles- OF (2017)
Top newcomers: Blake Eason- 3B/RHP (2016) Tony Mack- 2B/SS (2017)
Brief statement about your outlook and expectations: We are going to have to continue to work hard and get better. Our conference is pretty good when it comes to pitching. We have a lot of quality arms in our conference so we are going to have to hit and play good defense. For us to make a big run in the playoffs, we are going to have to pitch well night in and night out. We have the arms to get it done but will need the consistency to show. We return a lot of starters from 2014 (6) but our newcomers will have to step up and fill the voids we lost. How hard we work and how hungry we stay will determine our fate this year!
Schedule link: http://wjhs.johnston.k12.nc.us/student_life/Football_Scrimmage/spring_sports/baseball/Schedule http://wjhs.johnston.k12.nc.us/staff_directory/teacher_websites/joey_worley/west_johnston_baseball/ http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/west-johnston-wildcats-(benson,nc)/baseball/schedule.htm
How many years have you been coaching, and what got you into the business?
I have been coaching 18 years. Once I was done playing at East Carolina, I started volunteer coaching at E.B. Aycock Middle School in Greenville, NC before moving to the high school ranks. Baseball has always been my passion and giving back the knowledge I have learned from coaches like Kenny Meekins, Bruce Proctor, Gary Overton, Keith LeClair, Amby Foote, George Whitfield, and others it always rewarding. These coaches showed me that giving back is just as rewarding as getting wins. They not only taught baseball but they taught life lessons to all their players. This is why this profession is so enjoyable to me and it gives back just as much as you put into it.
What would you say the most rewarding thing about being a baseball coach is?
The most rewarding thing to me is seeing my players grow into young men and be model citizens. Whether it is them moving on to play baseball at the next level or to just be a college student and get an education. When they come back and talk with the younger players about their experiences and time is really rewarding as a coach. Growing young men and making them a better person for later in their life is what this profession is about.
How do you balance the time demands of coaching, and being with your family?
I have the best wife and daughter in the world. God has blessed me with a family that supports me more than I can ever ask. From my wife and daughter to my parents, they support me in everything I do. They know I am going to be gone a lot and they come to as many games as they can to support the program as well as me. When I am at home, it is all about them. I try to pride myself in not bring things home. We tell the kids to leave it on the field and I try to do the same. My family does not want to hear about baseball every minute I am at home. When it is time for baseball, I focus on baseball. When it is time for family, I focus on family. I even try to create that atmosphere with my program due to the time the players spend away from their families as well.
Who is the best player you have ever coached, and who is the best player you have ever coached against and why?
I have several good players I have coached whether it is on one of my high school teams or on a State Games of North Carolina team. The biggest two players that I have coached that come to mind is Jerry Sands, Carlos Rodon, and Brian Goodwin. Jerry has played in MLB for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays. He had an unbelievable arm and tons of power. He was just a freak in high school. He could do it all from catcher, pitch, play OF, you name it, he could not it. I think we all know a little about Carlos so there is not too much insight I can give there. He was just blessed with a lightning bolt for an arm. Brian just had all the tools. He could run, hit, field, had a cannon for an arm, and knew the game. He is in the Washington Nationals organization right now. The best player I ever coached against is Chris Archer. He is one of the top pitchers for the Tampa Bay Rays right now. In high school, he was just dirty. Nothing my kids could do with him. You just had to sit back and watch this kid and know you were watching something special at the time. We just did not know how special until now.
What does the term being a good teammate mean to you, and why is it important?
A good teammate is someone who is always up-beat no matter the situation and is always pulling for the rest of the team. He does not have to be a starter. He can be the guy that never gets in the game. He never complains, he works his butt off every day, and just makes everyone around him better for what he does. This is important for team chemistry and keeping the team on an even keel. Every team needs a kid like this. These kids are sometimes the backbone of your team. These players also know their role within the team most of the time better than anyone else out there. We call them our “Bench Mob!”
What do you think the biggest difference between high school players today versus when you played?
For one, I think they are faster and stronger BUT I also think they are more egocentric. Back when I played, you were upset when you went 0-4 but if the team won, you seemed to get over it a little quicker. Today, players are more worried about what they do and not what the team does. What is my batting average, how many strikeouts do I have, how many times have I walked, etc. We just played cause we loved the game and being around the guys on the team. We felt worse about letting the team down being 0-4 than how much our batting average dropped. With today’s players, that is a big issue. Trying to get the egocentric side out of them and have them concentrate on the team side of things is tough and can sometimes mean the difference between a successful season and an unsuccessful season.
Who is your favorite coach of all time, and why?
I cannot pick just one so I am going to give you 2 and for 2 different reasons. My first is Keith LeClair, former East Carolina Baseball Coach who died of ALS. There are a bunch of guys who played for him that went into the coaching ranks and I think it is due to how he approached coaching with the energy and passion he did. He loved his family and it showed but he loved the game and gave us as players everything he had every time he stepped foot on the field. He was also a person you could talk with about life and anything else that was bothering you. He knew he had guys away from home and wanted us to talk with him if we needed to. I wear #23 like all the other guys in remembrance of Coach and to hopefully show that passion and energy every day that he showed. The other would be my dad, Wayne Worley. He coached me in little league and I also had the pleasure of having him coach with me one summer in Junior Legion. He was always fair and looked at everything as an opportunity for someone to get better and learn. He took losing hard but saw it as a learning opportunity and not a reason to get mad and go back to the drawing board. He would always say, “Sometimes it just does not happen the way you want it to. Sometimes you have to want it more!” That has stuck with me. Losing stinks and is not easy to take but sometimes you just have to pick yourself up and get after it a little harder the next day. He knew how to keep everything in perspective and still does.
If you had a day away from the baseball field what would you spend it doing?
I would spend it on the lake bass fishing with the family. That is two of my favorite things outside of baseball- bass fishing and my family.
Next give us a little preseason prediction. Who is going to win the College World Series this year, and who is your preseason pick to win the MLB World Series and why on both accounts?
College World Series winner- Huh? Tough one here but I am going to say Virginia. They have been so close and have a dominate pitching staff this year. They are going to play good defense which is always a trademark of theirs but their pitching staff is outstanding. I think this year is their year. MLB World Series winner- If the Washington Nationals do not win it, they need to find some more people in the management department and I am not talking about Matt Williams but my pick is a dark horse. I am going with the San Diego Padres. They have made some huge offseason moves and have got some guys in key spots that have propelled them into a contender. I do think they are missing another quality arm but do think the big bats they got will help them win some games their pitching may let them down in.