For baseball lifer Jim Waters, timing was everything.
This January, Lewis Central activities director Jim Dermody called Waters to talk about the Titans’ vacant baseball coaching position. Also in January, Waters stepped away from his job at First National Bank after 33 years, which made his decision clear.
“Wow, if this isn’t good timing I don’t know when would be,” Waters said reflecting on the call.
Waters succeeds longtime Lewis Central baseball coach Lee Toole, who stepped down after 37 years coaching baseball with stops at New Hartford, Thomas Jefferson and for the past 20 years, Lewis Central. Toole finished with a career record of 909-474 (.657 win percentage), which is eighth on the state’s all-time coaches’ wins list. Toole also led the Titans to state tournament appearances in 2001, 2002 and 2005, and won a Class 4-A state title with T.J. in 1993. Last season, Lewis Central finished with a record of 23-14 and a Hawkeye Ten Conference championship.
In Waters, Lewis Central is getting another coach with deep ties to baseball in the area.
The Council Bluffs native grew up on the west end of town, playing in VFW leagues as a kid before playing for Thomas Jefferson, then Indian Hills Community College, followed by UNO. The former catcher has continued to help coach baseball in various ways throughout the years, including giving personal hitting lessons, but this will be his first high school head coaching gig.
“I’ve been involved in baseball for 53 years of my life. Between coaching it and playing it, I’ve never left baseball,” Waters said. “This is such a good opportunity for me to share my baseball knowledge I have from playing all these years. I want to incorporate that into this program and build a culture. I want a culture where it’s a disappointing season if we’re not playing in Des Moines for a state title.”
Waters continues to play too, participating in the Roy Hobbs World Series Adult Baseball Tournament in Fort Meyers, Florida, every year since 1996. Last year, Waters and a team made up of players from Omaha were champions of their division.
“It’s a pretty neat deal they have down there,” he said. “You play at the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox’s spring training facility. It’s top notch. They have real grass, but it’s like carpet. There aren’t any bad hops, so you don’t have to worry about getting your teeth knocked out.”
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of spring sports, the fate of summer baseball is still up in the air. However, whenever the Titans get on the field, fans can expect an exciting, up-tempo style of baseball.
“I believe in an aggressive type of baseball style,” Waters said. “I believe what I’ve seen so far is that we have some good team speed. If we get on base, we’re going. We want the kids to be smart, run and know when to take the extra base. We’re not going to give any outs away, but we’re surely going to take advantage of whatever we can according to the scouting report.”
Joining Waters on his staff is former UNO pitcher Mike Metz and Waters’ son Jimmy Waters, who played for Lewis Central and the University of Kansas. Jimmy Waters was named first team all-state in 2006 and was selected all-city, all-district and all-conference twice.
Iowa high school baseball and softball are currently under suspension, but have not yet been canceled. A decision on summer sports will be made by June 1, which currently serves as the first day of practice.
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