On Wednesday morning, there will be at least one Florida resident reading the Tribune-Star’s Web site for results of the North Harrison-West Vigo Class 3A regional baseball game tonight.
Mike Fields, a 1969 West Vigo graduate and former baseball player under then-coach Bob Clements, still checks in on the Vikings when time permits.
“I’m glad for them,” said Fields, whose parents Bill and Evelyn still live in West Terre Haute. “Coach [Steve] DeGroote does a great job and he’s got some pretty special players… When I went there [in the late 1960s], we never even won a sectional.”
Fields has done plenty of winning since then, however. For 24 of the past 29 seasons, he’s been a high school baseball coach in Florida — 20 at St. Cloud and the last four at Harmony. Before heading to the Sunshine State, he coached at Eastern Hancock for five seasons and Pendleton Heights for one season in the 1970s.
He’s done so well that he recently passed the 500-victory mark for his career — now at 504 — and Harmony officials announced at a banquet last month that the school’s playing facility will be known as the Mike Fields Baseball Complex.
“I was overwhelmed,” Fields said of the honor. “My family was there. We were all excited.”
Fields and wife Leigh have two sons, Trent and Chase, and two daughters, Steff and Mika.
Reflecting on his career, Fields explained why he left St. Cloud for Harmony, which was preparing to start its baseball program in the mid-2000s.
“One of my [former] assistant coaches had become principal at Harmony and he asked me to come over,” Fields said. “It’s been a great experience for me.”
With St. Cloud, Fields guided teams to the state finals three times, reaching the final game twice but never winning it.
“I have been fortunate to have some great student-athletes and assistant coaches who helped me along the way,” Fields mentioned. “I have had over 70 kids sign college scholarships and seven kids drafted [by major-league teams]. But just as importantly, I have had my ex-players become ministers, fighter pilots in Iraq/Afghanistan, lawyers and a long list of successful business people. Hopefully, I taught them something more than just baseball.”
In 2008, his Harmony squad won the Class 4A district championship (the equivalent of a sectional in Indiana) for the first time in the school’s brief history and finished 19-8.
“It was a great year,” Fields assessed. “Each year, we’ve improved from the year before. We beat every school in the county, which is a big deal around here.”
Despite all of his success in Florida, Fields fondly remembers his time in Vigo County, where he graduated from Indiana State University with a physical-education degree in 1973 and worked as a part-time sportswriter for the old Terre Haute Tribune and sports editor Jimmy Claus in the early 1970s.
Fields, who returns to the Terre Haute area about twice a year to visit his parents and friends, also offered a heartfelt “thanks” for Clements.
“He had a big influence on my coaching career,” Fields emphasized. “I appreciate everything he did for me.”
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at email@example.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.