CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe baseball coach Steve Cook reached a personal and professional milestone Saturday.
He enjoyed some time with current and former players, his family and a few friends. The celebration was short for the Kohawks’ skipper, who had just reached his 500th career victory with a series sweep over Wartburg.
In fact, he was back to work about 12 hours later, clearing mud and dirt from Coe’s home field with assistant and former player A.J. Reuter for a junior varsity doubleheader.
“We put a good three hours of work out on the field to get it ready so our JV kids could play a doubleheader the next day on Sunday, which is fine,” said Cook, who also serves as an Assistant Athletics Director. “That’s what we love about what we do.
“It was sobering that the nostalgia had to wear off quickly but we had to get back to work the next day to get our JV doubleheader in.”
Cook is in his 23rd season at Coe and is by far the program’s most successful coach with 501 victories after Tuesday’s win over Dubuque. The Kohawks are 21-2 this season, leading the American Rivers Conference with an 11-1 mark before Friday’s series opener against third-place Buena Vista (12-12, 5-4) at Daniels Park.
Coe posted a come-from-behind victory against Wartburg in the finale, scoring seven runs in the ninth for a 9-4 win. Cook was drenched with players’ water bottles during the postgame meeting in the outfield. The Kohawks signed the game ball that had “500” scrawled on it and presented it to him.
“It was cool,” Cook said. “It hit home and meant a lot.
“It was an exceptional moment in my life, for sure.”
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Coaching wasn’t in the lineup cards early for Cook. The youngest of six children was the first member of his family to go to college, attending Allegheny (Pa.) College. During his time as an All-American for Coach Rick Creehan, Cook aspired to give others the same opportunity he received from Creehan.
“Those experiences in college led me to want to get into coaching,” Cook said. “Ultimately, it’s why I stayed at Coe so long.
“I never aspired to do anything else, as far as bigger schools or anything else. For me, it was about finding a place I enjoy. It happened to be my first place. I haven’t had to move.”
After a brief minor-league career, he found a perfect fit at Coe. He is 501-442-1, guiding the Kohawks to four Iowa Conference tournament titles and one regular-season crown.
Cook has seen the game change over the years. The emphasis has switched to power and launch angles. He stresses balance and versatility, avoiding a one-dimensional team.
“I think that is what we’ve always tried to build here,” Cook said. “If you have an offense that has some diversity, if you are pitching and playing defense with skill most of the time then you’re going to have the capability of winning different ways.
“It’s really about being tough to play and that’s what I want to be because we have a lot of things we can do.”
Cook quickly admits none of it would be possible without the athletes and supportive parents. He also knows his family is one of the biggest reasons he has made coaching his mission. He credits his wife, Shannon, for her work when he is gone for three-day series on the road, week-long recruiting trips or fulfilling his duties as an administrator.
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His parents, Jerry and Betty Cook, and in-laws, including former Coe head football coach Steve Staker play a vital role. Cook’s parents actually stay part of the year with his family. They all pitch in and help with the grandchildren, allowing Cook to meet the demands of coaching.
“I’m very appreciative,” said Cook, who received a message from the oldest of his six daughters after Saturday’s games reminiscing about going to Coe games in her youth. “I know they all share these wins and the losses.
“A milestone like this that’s what ends up happening, life moves so fast but these types of experiences allow you to step back, take a breath and realize everything.”
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