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High schools: Former big-leaguer Reggie Willits back in pressure situation as Binger-Oney baseball coach

Willits charged with rebuilding tradition-rich baseball program that produced Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.
by Jacob Unruh Published: March 28, 2013

Wells told Willits to be patient and mindful of each situation, while reminding him not every high school athlete has the same mindset they did. She also told him to rely on his veteran assistant Gerald Wall.

He's taken heed to his sister's words, and the Bobcats appear to even be ahead of schedule with a 10-6 record and No. 4 ranking in the Class A coaches poll.

“You can actually look forward to a game,” senior Kelton Green said. “Last year you're just going into a game like, ‘Man, I hope we play good.' Now it's like I know we're going to play good.”

Last spring, Willits turned down three offers from major league clubs to compete for a roster spot after an injury-filled 2011 campaign. He even turned down professional coaching opportunities, instead choosing to remain home with his family.

“Chasing my dream is kind of over with,” Willits said.

Now Willits is not only rebuilding on the field, he is part of the movement to actually rebuild the field.

On April 2, the community will vote on a one-cent tax increase. If it passes, renovations will be made to Johnny Bench Field, while incorporating the Johnny Bench Museum — currently located in city hall — into it. The state-of-the-art facilities totaling anywhere from $400,000 to $600,000, will breathe new life into the program and community, possibly adding even more pressure.

“One thing I told them is we'll do our best to live up to it,” Willits said. “We're going to work as hard as we can from a baseball-program standpoint.”

That's all the community expects.

“There's a lot of tradition there, and it kind of went by the wayside for a few years,” Wilson said. “So we are on the right track and Mr. Willits has expanded on that.

“Bringing the knowledge of a major leaguer in, you just can't put a price on that.”

by Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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