By STEVE KRAH
Gary Vaught did not see himself leading another college baseball program.
When he retired a head coach at the University of Indianapolis in 2018, Vaught wanted to spend more time with his ailing mother back in Norman, Okla., and was secure in the knowledge that UIndy was in good hands with his former Greyhounds assistant Al Ready.
He had agreed to be head coach/general manager for the Hoptown Hoppers, a summer collegiate wood bat team in Hopkinsville, Ky., then Lake Eric College, a private school and NCAA Division II school in Painesville, Ohio (30 miles northeast of Cleveland) came calling.
Vaught was on vacation with friends when former LEC athletic director Kelley Kish (who had been in the compliance office at UIndy) reached out.
With so many former assistants in coaching, including Jordan Tiegs (now in the Texas Rangers system), Vaught was glad to recommend a candidate or two to the Storm.
Vaught was invited to the Lake Erie campus and met with president Brian Posler (who had served at Kansas State University and the University of Southern Indiana).
The job was offered to Vaught and he took it in January.
“I fell in love with the people up there,” says Vaught, who works for athletic director Mollie Hoffman.
Vaught led the Storm to a 3-6-1 mark in a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. All but one of the losses came in the final inning.
The virus caused the Hoppers season to be called off and the veteran coach spent much of his time between Indianapolis and Oklahoma.
Vaught’s career mark at the NCAA D-I or D-II levels to 978-672-2.
Starting with the 1985 season, Vaught coached two years at Kansas State, three at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., and 24 at UIndy (1995-2018). He won a school-record 808 wins and the program’s first NCAA Division II College World Series appearance in 2000. The Hounds went 51-15 in 2001.
Then there’s the 305 victories Vaught racked up at the beginning of his coaching career at Connors State College in Warren, Okla.
Vaught, 69, is back in Indianapolis with the Lake Erie closed down because of COVID, but he’s still coaching the Storm.
His fire was reignited last spring and continues to burn.
“I’ve got a lot of energy,” says Vaught. “I love the game. It’s been a big part of my life. Hopefully we’ve made changes in kids’ lives.”
Each year around Christmas, Vaught receives and makes calls to former players. He also reaches out to mentor Gary Ward, who enjoyed so much success at Oklahoma State University and is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It doesn’t take anytime to pick up the phone and say thank you,” says Vaught. “Treat people how they are supposed to be treated. That’s how to try to do everyday as a coach.
“The Lord’s blessed me in so many ways.”
The veteran skipper has so many “baseball brothers” that he appreciates in the baseball fraternity. Among those are Tracy Archuleta (University of Southern Indiana), Rick O’Dette (Saint Leo Universty), Larry Owens (Bellarmine University) and Josh Rabe (Quincy University).
And the list goes on.
Vaught says he looks forward to bringing his team to UIndy for a April 14, 2021 doubleheader, where he can take the field against former players now coaching the Greyhounds Ready (whose son Cam is a godchild to Vaught) and Trevor Forde. UIndy AD Scott Young was Vaught’s assistant for 14 years.
Former Greyhounds AD Dave Huffman hired Vaught in 1994 and the coach also worked with Sue Willey in her tenure as AD.
Lake Erie plays its home games at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio, home of the Midwest League’s Lake County Captains.
The Storm belong the the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Tom Daeger, who played for Vaught at UIndy, is the GMAC commissioner.