ST. PETERSBURG — Don Reed was playing in the half-century softball league in 1999 when a teammate mentioned there was an opening to become the head baseball coach at Shorecrest Preparatory School.
Reed certainly did not need the job. He had just finished his 13th season managing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, a summer wood bat league for pro prospects. Reed finished his career there with a league-record 334 wins and coached players who would go on to be among the best in the majors, including Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Albert Belle, Carlos Pena, Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn and Robin Ventura.
And Reed had already watched his two sons, Jeff and Curt, play college and professional baseball. Jeff played 16 seasons in the major leagues, was on the 1990 Reds team that won the World Series and caught Tom Browning’s perfect game.
It was time for Reed to retire. Or so he thought. He was not actively pursuing another coaching job but the thought of teaching kids at the high school level intrigued him.
So he took a chance.
“I really liked the school and it had some baseball tradition,” Reed said.
Now, after 12 years at the school, Reed, 70, has guided the Chargers to their first state tournament appearance since 1991. On Monday, Shorecrest (22-8) faces Jay in the Class 2A state semifinals at Digital Domain Field in Port St. Lucie.
“It’s turned out to be a great decision for me,” Reed said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
At first, many wondered why Reed would do this to himself.
On one hand, the explanation is easy: No man who has ever coached is entirely happy unless he is standing on a practice field.
Most of all, though, Reed wanted to prove that he can still get the job done on the field. He wanted to show he can give life to yet another baseball operation.
And he has demonstrated that as wedded as he is to his spectacular past, he also is a coach for the 2000s, just as he was a coach for the 1980s and ’90s.
“Don came here with a great track record and a ton of experience,” said Shorecrest football coach Phil Hayford, who also served as athletic director when the school hired Reed. “He may be a little bit older, but I still think he can relate to the players. He has the team in the state tournament. I think that says a lot about the job he is doing.”
Reed intended to do things his way when he took over, but he also wanted to make sure his approach would reach players in this generation.
“I think Coach is really good at what he does,” Shorecrest outfielder Jake Brandenburg said. “He has a lot of knowledge about the game and that’s something we all respect. And he knows how to get his message across to us.”
The Chargers have gotten to this point because of superb pitching, great defense and timely hitting, all staples that helped make Reed successful in the Cape Cod League.
Reed also has gotten a lot of support from his family. Last week, Jeff flew down from Tennessee to help his dad conduct practice. Curt will travel to Port St. Lucie for Monday’s state semifinal, as will Reed’s wife, Shirly. The two have been married for 45 years.
“There has been great support from the school and especially from my family,” Reed said. “It really has been a lift for me.”
When the season ends, whether Shorecrest wins a state title or not, Reed will already be looking ahead to next year.
He has no plans to retire.
“I’m not one of those guys who can sit back and rock in a rocking chair while passing the time away,” Reed said. “I plan to keep coaching for as long as I can.”
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org