HUDSON — The date was April 5, 2001 and the Hudson High baseball team defeated Cairo-Durham 21-3 to give Kevin Bowes his first victory as the Bluehawks varsity coach.
Eighteen years and 270 victories later, Bowes has decided to step down, turning the program over to junior varsity coach Ken Ward.
Bowes said the thought of stepping down came to toward the end of last season and figured the time was right.
“As a coach you always think you’re going to do it for as long as you can give your all,” Bowes said. “I just didn’t think I could do that anymore. I just thought it was time to hang them up.
“We had a great year last year, but by the end of the year, it just caught up to me really quick. I just didn’t think I could give it my all and that’s not fair to the kids, so I said it’s time to let somebody else to do it.”
Bowes feels the program has plenty of young talent coming through and feels it’s in more than capable hands with Ward, who coached the Bluehawks’ junior varsity team the past few years.
“The program is in good hands with Kenny,” Bowes said. “He’s a good guy, the kids like him and he’s been around long enough to handle it. Have to give a shout to Evan Bernockie, too. He’ll be helping out again. He was with me the past four or five years, so the kids are in good hands.”
A standout athlete at Chatham in the mid 80’s, coaching became a passion through the years for Bowes.
“It’s something I love to do,” he said. “I always played ball my whole life, played some college ball. When I came to Hudson and the position was open, I was asked to do it and I took it. I started out coaching modified for a few years, so coaching wasn’t new to me, it was something I was always interested in doing.”
Through 18 years, Bowes said he enjoyed every team he coached, regardless of its won-loss record.
Success came early and often for Bowes. After posting a 19-2 record and taking the Bluehawks to the Section II Class B semifinals in his first season as coach, he guided the team to its first sectional championship in his second-year, beating a very good Lansingburgh team in the title game, the same Lansingburgh team that had ousted Hudson the year before.
“I had some great players on that team. I think four of them played college ball and two of them were D-1. It was a great group to coach and we had a wonderful time and winning the Section was the highlight. We competed against some really good teams. Having Ichabod Crane in the league then helped. We had some real battles with them. That was a special time.”
The 2002 team finished with a 23-2 record and was ranked in the top five in the state most of the season. That talent-laded squad featured Brendan Mullins, Steve Barrett, Chris Howard, Mike Myrdycz, Jason Pollard and Rashad Barksdale, who went on to play pro football.
“He was amazing in center field, Bowes said of Barksdale. “He would play left-center to right-center. You talk about a freak of nature in the outfield. He would be my leadoff hitter, and if he got on first, it was almost like a triple because he’d steal second and third. That team was stacked. There was no let up in that team from 1-9."
Bowes also had high praise for Pollard, the team’s All-Conference catcher.
“Jason Pollard might have been the best catcher I ever had and we’ve had quite a few good catchers. I’ll bet you can count on one hand the number of kids that ever stole base on him in three years of varsity baseball. That kid was phenomenal and very rarely did the ball get by him. His blocking skills were tremendous. He had a great bat, too.”
“We had a lot of good teams, a lot of good players. You really have to have a lot of dedicated kids and parents and we all have to be on the same page. I was fortunate enough to have that.”
Bowes finishes with an impressive record of 271-89. His teams won the Patroon Conference championship in each of his first three years at the helm and each of his last three. He had just one losing season in 18 years. That was in 2011 when he was forced to bring up several freshman to the varsity team. Ironically, he said that might have been his best coaching job.
“Probably the most coaching I ever done, just getting the kids to understand base running and things like that,” Bowes said. “Some of the better coaching jobs you think you’ve done over the years, the record doesn’t really indicate it. Some groups you don’t have to hardly work on anything baseball related like how to run bases and bunting. With that group we worked hard at it and I think in the long run it paid off, bringing those young kids up when I did. That next year we had six sophomores on the team.”
Through 18 years as varsity coach, Bowes’ philosophy never changed.
“As a coach, you tell your kids your expectations before the season,” he said. “We have things we have to follow, we have to do this, we have to do that, and I think the kids really bought into that. Most of them did and that helps. Be honest with the kids.
“I just liked helping the kids improve and being around the sport, helping kids improve their pitching, their batting their fielding. We did a lot of different things, a lot of different drills and I think the kids responded quite well. It was a good time and a good run.”
Bowes is proud of his record, but emphasized the success he achieved was based in large part to the talented group of kids he coached.
“Your record’s your record, but I wouldn’t have it without those kids that played for me,” he said. “We’ve always been top three in the league except for maybe one or two years. Looking back, we had a lot of good players come through the program. Teams respected us. When Hudson came into town, you’re going to get their best. They knew it, our kids knew it and I think it made the games even better.
“Teams were always up for our games and that’s a good thing. Some of the games we’ve had have been really intense and I think that’s what high school sports should be. As much as you want to have fun, it’s all about winning. Everything’s fun and games, but if you go on a field where they keep score, you’re out there to win, especially at the varsity level. I didn’t have to tell the kids that, they knew it.”
Looking back, Bowes wouldn’t change one thing about his time as Bluehawks’ coach.
“I’m not the best coach in the world, but I always made it perfectly clear what I expected of them,” Bowes said. “I think that was important. They knew that and if something happened they knew there would be consequences. We always had teams that got along. Never any jealousy or anything like that. All I asked them to do was play hard for seven innings and it worked out. Hopefully, the kids took something away from their high school careers.”