TERRE HAUTE —
Steve DeGroote describes working for West Vigo High School as “the best job I ever had.”
But he won’t be doing it much longer.
DeGroote told the Tribune-Star that he decided Tuesday morning to leave his position as head baseball coach — one that he’s treasured since he succeeded the retiring Dick Ballinger following the 1992 season — so he can join new Indiana State baseball coach Mitch Hannahs’ staff as a volunteer assistant.
Because DeGroote’s new duties won’t begin until September, he would like to continue to serve as West Vigo’s girls cross country coach for the fall season. A final decision has not been made on that, however.
“I’ve got five seniors and I promised I would stick with them,” DeGroote explained, adding that this would have been his final season for coaching girls cross country anyway.
“Right now, he will continue to be our girls cross country coach, barring possible conflicts with his new position [at ISU],” West Vigo athletic director Kenny Pearson confirmed.
Admitting it was a tough decision to leave the Vikings’ baseball program, the 65-year-old DeGroote emphasized that “West Vigo will always be a part of me.”
Already retired as a teacher of health and physical education at the school, DeGroote leaves West Vigo baseball with a 21-year record of 441-118. Counting a previous six-year stint as baseball coach at Corwith Wesley High School in Iowa, his career record is 525-142 over 27 seasons.
During DeGroote’s time at the helm in baseball, West Vigo won 10 sectionals, five regionals, one semistate, reached the final four once (in 2000) and reached the state championship game one other time (in 2009).
In 2013, West Vigo’s baseball team finished 21-6. DeGroote’s Vikings captured the Class 3A West Vigo Sectional title before losing to Crawfordsville 5-1 in the Mount Vernon Regional on June 3.
Now it’s time to find a successor for DeGroote as baseball coach, which Pearson hopes will happen in the next month.
“You can’t really replace him,” Pearson insisted. “You just have to hope that someone can take what he’s built and continue on with it.
“It’s going to be a great loss. I played for Steve at ISU when he was there [as an assistant in the early 1980s] and I was an assistant coach with him at West Vigo from 2005 to 2011. When I joined his staff, I just continued learning more about the game. He’s just a great, great coach.”
As Pearson mentioned, DeGroote worked on the ISU baseball staff previously before coming to West Vigo. DeGroote said he was a graduate assistant for one season (1980-81) under then-head coach Bob Warn and an academic advisor and regular assistant for the next four seasons.
DeGroote said he likes the idea of going back to ISU, but he hates the idea of leaving West Vigo, whenever it becomes official.
Asked about the highlights of his West Vigo baseball career, he replied: “I always enjoyed seeing seniors end their [high school] careers by having great years.”
DeGroote left open the possibility of continuing to announce at West Vigo athletic events when time permits in 2013-14, unless the school prefers to let others who can be there regularly do it.