High School Sports

Bauer chosen to take over O’Fallon baseball program

Newly-hired O’Fallon varsity baseball coach Joe Bauer.
Newly-hired O’Fallon varsity baseball coach Joe Bauer.

As an assistant baseball coach, Joe Bauer has shared in some successful seasons at both Southwestern Illinois College and O’Fallon High School.

After a five-year break, he is returning to a familiar place in a new role. Bauer, 50, has been named as the new head baseball coach at O’Fallon.

“I’ve kept my foot in the door the past few years. Scott (Seipp) and I have been working with 9- to 10-year-old kids. When this job came open, I really wanted (O’Fallon assistant) Nick Seibert to apply for it. But he decided to do what I’ve done the past few years and coach his girls,’’ Bauer said.

“The last time I applied for a head coaching job was 19 years ago when my son Camden was 2 and I applied for a couple of NCAA Division II jobs. This O’Fallon job? It just seemed like the right time for me.’’

Bauer takes over the O’Fallon program from Jason Portz who resigned for personal reasons in June after leading O’Fallon to a school record 35 wins and a berth in the Class 4A Champaign Super-Sectional.

Portz, who guided the Panthers to a record of 469-140-2, won 11 regional titles in 16 years as coach. Portz’s program was involved in controversy in the last year when it was discovered that unauthorized improvements were made to the press box at Blazier Field in O’Fallon where the Panthers play their home games.

“I’ve been very happy being an assistant coach for years. I’ve worked with great people, Neil (Fiala at SWIC and Jason (Portz) here at O’Fallon. I’ve loved that role,” Bauer said. “I wanted to see the O’Fallon program continue to have success it’s had.

“It’s not like this is a train wreck coming in. The fundamentals are there and while we lost 16 seniors from last year, the community and the program are strong enough. We’ll reload quickly.’’

Bauer’s baseball foundation is a sound one.

A 1986 graduate of Althoff, Bauer went on to play college baseball at Bradley Univeristy in Peoria for three years before finishing up his college education at Edwardsville. It was while in college when Bauer began coaching and was a member of coach Al Foppe’s staff at Althoff in 1991 when the Crusaders won the Class A state title.

Bauer then went on to coach at SWIC for nine years while also coaching in the Central Illinois Collegiate League and the Metro Collegiate League in the summer months.

“I am been very fortunate. I worked with Art (Voellinger) and then Jason (Portz) at O’Fallon and got to be part of the two teams that placed third at the state tournament. Then, I coached with Neil Fiala and had the chance to learn from Jay Harrington at SWIC when they had their run of great teams in the 1990s,’’ Bauer said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be around a lot of kids who signed professional contracts.’’

Bauer takes over an O’Fallon team that next season returns shortstop Josh Gibson and first baseman Matthew Albritton, among others.

“We can’t be down on ourselves because we lost 16 seniors and knowing the fact that Edwardsville is going to be flat loaded during the next two years. We have to look at it like this is a new group of kids coming in who will now get their chance. These kids had success at the junior-varsity level,’’’ Bauer said. “Is there a Hayden Juenger or a Brayden Arnold in that group? No. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t and won’t be successful.

“I’m a challenge-oriented person and I look forward to this challenge of continuing what (Portz) developed over the years. One this is for sure, we will be aggressive on the baseball field. But even more important is that we will continue to be part of developing good young student-athletes and people.’’