College Baseball

'I've run my race': Wathen steps down after 25 years at JWCC

John Wood Community College baseball coach Greg Wathen gives a sign from the third-base coaching box during a game against Heartland Community College in March 2017. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 13, 2018 8:00 am

QUINCY -- Greg Wathen had been contemplating a change, and he got confirmation on Sunday that it was time to make the move.

Brad Hoyt, athletic director at John Wood Community College, informed local media by text on Tuesday night that Wathen had resigned as the school's baseball coach after 25 years. A press release detailing the move was issued Wednesday morning.

Wathen said he was attending services at Grandview Church on Sunday when a light inside the church shined on his iPad on the following Biblical passage from 2 Timothy 4: "The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

"I thought to myself, ‘I need more than this,'" Wathen said. "Then out of the corner of my eye, it was like someone shining a flashlight in my eye. The guy across the aisle from me has a set of sandals on him with a jewel on them, and the jewel is like blinding me as it shined on my iPad.

"I believe this is a move the Lord wants me to make. The voice was so clear in how it happened. I think I've run my race."

Wathen, 56, will remain as a part-time instructor at JWCC. He now works as an assistant general manager with the Hannibal Hoots of the Prospect League. Former JWCC assistant coach Matt Stembridge is the general manager of the Hoots, and Wathen says he's there to do whatever is needed.

"I cover everything from the field to the team store to tickets," he said. "It's all so I can alleviate any stress I can on Matt. He spent five years with me (as an assistant), and he's about my best friend. I told him to put me in any role except sales. I'll do anything to make things easier for him."

Hoyt said Wathen has been such a constant at JWCC that he hadn't given much thought about needing to find a replacement until this week.

"Right now, the priority is to make sure we communicate to our players and tell Greg's story. I want to make sure that's the initial focus," he said. "He's given 25 years to this college, and we want to recognize his impact, and we want to make sure the kids are taken care of."

Assistant coach Adam Hightower and pitching coach Lane Hanzel remain on staff. Hightower coached the Quincy Gems last summer.

Hoyt has hired three coaches in the past four months for new sports set to start in the 2018-19 season. He thought Wathen's replacement would be hired "within a relatively short amount of time."

Wathen leaves JWCC just four victories away from 600 for his career. Last season's team finished with a 25-28 record, losing its first two games in the Region 24 Tournament to end the season. His record at JWCC is 596-692-2. He coached for two years at Hannibal-LaGrange University before taking the Trail Blazers' job in 1994.

Two of Wathen's teams reached the Region 24 championship game. The most recent was in 2015, when JWCC (38-22) had the winning run on third base in the bottom of the ninth in the championship game but eventually lost 6-3 in 10 innings to Lincoln Land.

"I have never lost my passion for the game, and more important, I've never lost my passion for mentoring young men," Wathen said. "What has worn on me is the tough part of doing it all. I love to mentor and coach, but I don't have this great desire to be in charge any more. I have no problem working for someone else."

Wathen and his wife of 25 years, Janelle, have a son, Joshua, who is a worship pastor in the Los Angeles area and a daughter, Olivia, who will be a senior at Quincy High School.

"Janelle and I thought that maybe after Olivia graduates, we might pick up and move out to be with our son," Wathen said. "I didn't want to go out after a year like this, but it dawned on me that (Hightower) has recruited what I think is going to be a wonderful team. When they win, maybe people will say, ‘See, it was time for the old guy to go.'

"But in the end, God's not going to ask me how many games I've won. He's going to ask me how many young men whose lives I've impacted, and I can still do that (with the Hoots)."