TERRE HAUTE —
Chris Barney knew what qualities he wanted as he was searching this winter for a new assistant baseball coach at Vincennes University.
He wanted someone familiar with his program and his coaching style, someone from the Wabash Valley area who understood the state’s high school and American Legion programs, someone who had played several different positions in the field and also someone who had made a successful transition from junior college to Division I baseball.
It didn’t take him long to realize that Cole Vicars was his man. The 2007 Terre Haute South grad excelled for VU in 2008 as an outfielder and 2009 as an infielder, then moved up to D-I at Alcorn State — where he dusted off his pitching arm and helped hurl the Braves into the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
Vicars spent the past two years coaching a Terre Haute South summer travel team and completing his history degree requirements at Indiana State. He’s now ready to take his coaching career to the next level.
“After finishing my playing career I decided I wanted to become a baseball coach, but realized I needed to graduate before doing so,” he said. “I really enjoyed coaching the South team the past two summers with Shane Abrell, and I knew I wanted to continue to coach at the collegiate level.”
Vicars heard that the VU position came open, and immediately went to work on landing it.
“I gave coach Barney a call letting him know I was interested in the position,” he said. “After going through the interview process I was lucky enough to get offered the job and get started with my coaching career.”
Barney is thrilled to bring a former VU player back to the program, and has a lot of different jobs in store for Vicars.
“He’ll be involved in all facets of the program, working with pitchers, hitters, infielders and outfielders as well as staying busy with recruiting,” Barney said. “I’m pleased that we’re able to give an alumnus an opportunity to get his foot in the door at the collegiate coaching level and it allows him to chase his passion — coaching the sport of baseball.”
South coach Kyle Kraemer has known and coached Vicars for a majority of his life, and predicts success for him at the collegiate level.
“Cole will do a great job and is a great fit as an assistant coach for coach Barney and Vincennes University,” Kraemer said. “I believe Cole’s biggest and best attribute as a player, and will surely be as a coach as well, is his tremendous competitiveness. This is what I remember most about Cole.
“I am quite sure Cole will take this same competitive approach to teaching and coaching the pitchers and infielders as well as recruiting for Vincennes University.”
Kraemer also recalled that while Vicars was not an imposing physical figure on the athletic fields, his skill and toughness overcame any such obstacles.
“Let’s not forget his athletic ability in leading the boys basketball team to the Final Four as a 5-foot-8 point guard and also leading the baseball team to the sectional title,” Kraemer pointed out.
Vicars played for three different coaches in college, and figures to adopt some of all their methods — along with those of Kraemer — in developing his own personal style.
“I’m going to use the different aspects I learned from them three that helped me achieve success as a player,” Vicars said. “I’m excited to get my coaching career started and thankful coach Barney has given me the opportunity. I played under coach Barney as a sophomore so I’m familiar with his coaching style and believe it’s a great fit for me to start my coaching career.”
Vicars said his long-term goal would be to become a D-I head coach, but he also wouldn’t mind either the D-II or junior college levels.
Barney added that Vicars is the epitome of “the right fit” for the job.
“We’re extremely pleased to welcome Cole back to VU,” he said. “His relationships with coaches in the state all give him a great network to help us with recruiting.”
• • •
• Greene starts pro career — Rockville graduate Luke Greene will be heading to the wide open spaces of Montana this summer to begin his career as a professional baseball athletic trainer.
Greene graduated May from Northern Kentucky University with a degree in athletic training. Last summer, he took an internship with the Kansas City Royals, and after returning home the Milwaukee Brewers offered him a job as the trainer for their Pioneer League team in Helena, Montana. He will be joining the team later this month for spring training in Phoenix. He is a 2008 Rockville grad and played his first two collegiate seasons at Lake Land College. Greene worked this winter as an athletic trainer with Clay Community Schools.
• Combs to SMWC — Riverton Parke High School senior Kelly Combs has signed a national letter of intent to play softball for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College next fall.
“It is honestly my dream come true,” Combs said. “I have wanted to play for St. Mary’s ever since I was a little girl.”
Combs plans to study elementary education and gain a minor in Mild Intervention (special needs) at SMWC.
“The student-to-teacher ratio is small there, like it is here at Riverton. I think I’ll feel really comfortable there.”
Combs hit .402 in her junior season and has been named to the all-Wabash River Conference team three times.
She is the second RPHS player to sign with SMWC in the last year as former Panthers star Sarah Burnham is now on the Pomeroys’ roster after spending a year at Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Illinois.
• Chew honored — North Vermillion grad Bethany Chew, a third-year St. Louis College of Pharmacy student, received the Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete Award at the school’s fall sports awards banquet recently.
Chew was the No. five runner for the STLCOP this fall, and helped the team to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference meet.
To be eligible for the award, athletes must maintain a 3.5 grade-point average as a junior or above.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com.