The Waterloo High School baseball program has always been a big part of Mark Vogel's life.
As a young boy growing up in the Monroe County community, Vogel was a loyal fan of the Bulldogs even before pulling on a Waterloo uniform as a player in the mid-1980s.
He was still wearing the orange and black Wednesday when, in his 26th season as Waterloo's coach, he earned career win No. 500.
The Bulldogs (16-9, 3-6) rallied with two runs in the fifth inning and three in the sixth to extend their winning streak to five games with a 7-2 win over Mississippi Valley Conference rival Civic Memorial.
"It means that I've been around a long time and I've been fortunate to have the chance to coach and be around a lot of great people over the years," Vogel said. "Waterloo is a great baseball community with a lot of very good, hard-working kids.
"Winning 500 games is great and I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish in this baseball program. I suppose when I retire and am able to sit back and reflect, I'll appreciate it even more."
A 1986 graduate of Waterloo, where he played for coach Lon Fulte, Vogel, 49, then played two years at Kaskaskia College in Centralia for another coaching legend in Larry Smith. He finished his career at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
Vogel returned to Waterloo and after one year as an assistant coach took over as head coach in 1992. Under Vogel's leadership, Waterloo has won seven conference titles and three regional championships.
Vogel's most successful team was in 2011 when he guided the Bulldogs to a 33-4 record and a third-place finish in the Class 3A state tournament. That team, led by the hitting of Aron Aycock and Garrett Schlecht along with the pitching of AJ Crutchfield, Cole Schaefer and Schlecht, was special in many ways.
"That was an exceptional baseball team,'' Vogel said. "But the thing I remember most about that team was what great kids they were. Most of them were honor students."
The Bulldogs' other regional titles came in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Vogel said players haven't changed much in his 26 years. But with the development of select and traveling teams, there are more chances for kids to play at a high level.
"The kids are pretty much the same now as they were when I started. The difference is with the select and traveling teams They can play pretty much year-round," Vogel said. "They are playing at a high level and so when they play high school in the spring, it's sometimes difficult for me to know what they know and what they can handle. Then you are also concerned about burnout."
Vogel has no plans to retire any time soon.
"We were playing at Highland earlier this year in a game that we ended up losing 6-5. But it was really well-played and went down to the wire," Vogel said. "After the game I'm talking to (Highland) coach Joel Hawkins and I said, 'Games like this are still why I love to coach.' It was a great high school baseball game.
"I still love the game and really enjoy coaching high school baseball. I'll keep doing it as long as they want me to coach."