By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Baseball at Tazewell High School is more than a game. It is more than wins and losses.
For years veteran coach Lou Peery has stated, “At Tazewell High School we don’t build baseball players, we build men.”
While the Bulldogs’ program does build the character of young men, it also has produced some excellent baseball players, including former major league All-Star Billy Wagner, Zak Wasilewski who is in his second year in the Toronto Blue Jays system, and countless young men who have gone on to play college baseball over the past 35 years.
“We just try to prepare them for life,” Peery commented. “This is a game. It’s a game very similar to life. It has its ups and downs, its failures, its heartbreaks, but we’ve got to prepare them for life because if we can survive in this game we can survive in life.”
Along with successful young men have been successful teams. Tazewell has won numerous Southwest District championships, Coppinger Invitational titles and has been a frequent participant in state tournament play. The one constant, head coach Lou Peery.
This year’s Bulldogs team could be called the pups because they are a young squad. With only two seniors on the varsity roster, the Dogs had a 1-5 record after this past Saturday’s loss to Miller School of Albemarle, coached by former Tazewell product Wagner.
But that does not have Peery worried, because he keeps the larger goal, personal development in sight.
With a young pitching staff, Peery said there is no need to panic, nor rely heavily on one or two hurlers.
“We’re not going to overwork them because it does no good to have a kid’s arm left here on the field when he’s got a future someplace else,” Peery said. “His future may be playing catch with his own son, so why hurt his arm now.”
There are seven or eight players on the roster Peery can give the ball to and he plans to take it easy and let each player develop.
“We’re going to keep running them out there and hopefully we’re going to get better and more experienced and that’s what we’re looking for this year,” Peery said.
In addition to the youthfulness of the team, this spring’s weather conditions have not helped the Bulldogs, nor any other team in the area.
“Pitching is always going to be last to come around because you don’t have enough time to work on it,” Peery said. “With the spring we’ve had we’ve been unable to get into a rhythm. You’ve got to get into that rhythm by throwing every day and hopefully we’ll get better there now that the weather has gotten better.”
Tyler Myers, Todd Mulkey and Brett Jones are just three of the players who take to the mound for Tazewell. They throw to catcher Chase Illig . Senior Brett Powers holds down first base with Colin Hancock at second, Jones at third and Brody Dean, another pitcher, at short.
In the outfield there is Jonah Peery, the team’s other senior in left, Luke Parsons in center and Casey Lee in right. Mason Turner and Steven Collier round out the varsity roster.
While the pitching is coming around, there is one area Peery feels is the team’s strong point. Defense.
“We’re playing pretty solid defense, fielding the ground balls, fly balls,” Peery noted. “We’re indecisive at the plate, not recognizing the pitch to hit and when we do, we are not swinging at the right one and we’re swinging at stuff we shouldn’t be.”
Tazewell is slated to host Richlands tonight, and then open Coppinger Tournament play Saturday afternoon against Mount View at Lou Peery Field in Tazewell in a game pitting the schools that have won the most Coppinger championships.
Tazewell has won seven (1986, ‘87, ‘94, ‘95, ‘05, ‘09, ‘10) and Mount View has claimed five (1979, ‘81, ‘83, ‘92, ‘96).