Sluggers vote for Gore

During a break in the incessant late November rain, newly appointed baseball coach Jayson Gore surveyed the puddled infield from the shelter of the third base dugout.

“All I want to do is coach baseball,” he said, visions of Spartans circling the bases filling his mind.

An assistant for two years to former Bainbridge coach Mike Reese, who resigned to become head coach at Olympic College, and a freshman assistant coach the previous year, Gore, 28, arrived here through a somewhat circuitous route.

He grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where he batted .571 and .445 during his junior and senior years on a high school team that was ranked among the top 25 nationally in “USA Today.”

He became a pitcher when he entered Aquinas Junior College in Nashville, Tenn. There he met Mike Smithson, a former major leaguer who had been released but was still earning nearly $300,000, making him undoubtedly the highest-paid JC coach in the country.

Moving to the mound didn’t hurt Gore’s hitting, as his batting average remained well over .300 at both Aquinas and later at Morehead State University in Kentucky.

“I’m a baseball player who got turned into a pitcher,” he said. “I’ve always had that hitting mentality.”

A compact version of Babe Ruth, Gore was all-conference during all four of his collegiate years as a hitter in addition to being tabbed Most Valuable Pitcher as a junior.

After two years at Morehead, Gore had two choices: playing in an independent professional league, or accepting an offer to travel to Germany and become a player-coach with the newly formed Elmshorn Alligators.

He chose the latter.

“It was more money and a great learning experience, to say the least,” he said.

When he returned to this country in 1997, his mother had remarried and moved to Bainbridge. She suggested that it was an area that her son might like. She was right.

Gore soon married and is now the father of a one-year-old son. He also began playing softball on the island and quickly met some of the prime movers of local baseball.

He began helping out with the freshman team, then met Reese, who hired him as varsity pitching coach.

“Mike’s been a big influence on my career,” he said. “He prepared me well to take over the program. What he did here was flat-out remarkable.”

Describing himself as “a motivating kind of coach – I like to throw the dust up and let it settle,” Gore sees a lot of continuity from “a program that’s done great in the past three years.

“We’ll have the same rules, same defensive rotations, same signals. But we’ll work more on hitting. I love to hit the ball, and we need to score runs to win championships.

“Last year we had a young team that faced the top five pitchers in the state, all Division I prospects. I think they were a little intimidated and demoralized.

“But baseball is a game of failure. You have to pick yourself out of the dirt and face the situation and learn from your failures.

“If you strike out and come to the dugout and throw your bat and helmet, that’s a waste of energy. You need to learn how to channel that energy.”

He’s optimistic about the team he’ll inherit.

“We have a lot of seniors and a lot of returning starters from last year’s state playoff game,” he said. “We’re used to playing big-time baseball against some of the best teams in the state.”

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