Silo High School baseball coach Billy Jack Bowen is in desperate need of cosmetic surgery.
The poor guy has used up all of his fingers and thumbs and is two wins away from being out of toes. Championship rings on toes is not a good fit in the coaching box or on the practice field.
All he does is win and he’s been doing it all of his life. He won as a player at Silo. He won in the classroom. He won as a worker. He won at Grayson County College. He won at Southeastern. Must get boring.
He won when he played Durant American Legion baseball. His mother, Cherrie Dawn, would drive him to Southside Park in the Volkswagen beetle. He used the travel time to inhale a sandwich and change into his uniform after a day in the hay field.
His baseball coaching career started with the Bokchito Roughriders (remember them?) It continued when Bokchito and Blue merged to become Rock Creek (remember that?)
The Roughriders were state champions in 1988 and 1990. The Mustangs were state champions in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Bokchito was the state runner-up in 1989. Rock Creek was the state runner-up in 1994.
And then he became baseball head coach at Silo.
The Silo Rebels were state champions in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, twice in 2010 (fall and spring), 2013, 2014, twice in 2015 and again in 2017.
Silo was the state runner-up in 2004, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Whoever said you can’t go home again must be feeling pretty dumb.
Collectively, Bokchito, Rock Creek and Silo had won a total of zero state championships prior to Bowen’s arrival.
He signed with the Atlanta Braves out of Southeastern and rumor has it he drove a ball over the fence in Fulton County Stadium in a tryout. He left professional baseball after returning several minor-league contracts unsigned.
Three-a-days have started at Silo High School. The early workout always starts with a 2-mile run.
Should players question why they have to run two miles, there’s a stock answer.
“You don’t have to run two miles,” Bowen says. “You get to run two miles.”
Heck of a lot of difference in having to do something and getting to do something.
The first year at Silo was Bowen’s only losing season. His team was 14-20 in the fall and 27-8 in the spring. That was the only year he has failed to win a district tournament.
His teams have won 50 district tournaments, 46 regionals and 17 state championships.
His overall baseball record is 1,946-399 over 31 years (you can already add two more wins to that total for this year). That works out to 62.77 wins and 12.87 losses per year, a career winning percentage of 82.98, which suspends belief.
These numbers are just for baseball. He has also coached basketball (girls and boys). Bowen coached boys for 19 years and posted a 381-166 record that included four appearances in the state tournament. His teams reached the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals twice. That’s a 69.7 winning percentage.
For the young ladies, he coached seven years and compiled a 170-61 record with four trips to the state tournament. That works out to a blistering 73.6 winning percentage.
Bowen’s combined baseball-basketball coaching record is 2,497-626 for a somewhat respectable 79.95 winning percentage.
He didn’t coach baseball his first year at Bokchito. He’s been making out lineups for 14 years at Bokchito/Rock Creek and 17 years at Silo.
Bowen’s 38th overall year of coaching started with three-a-days in late July. His kids work hard in practice and win in games. He has also been recognized as one of the top classroom teachers in Bryan County.
His system works. He once decided to drop one of the three-a-day practices because of the heat. His players went ahead with the third practice without him.
Bowen said, “Our kids have the mentality of champions. None of them want to play on the team that breaks our streak.”
He has taken his high school baseball teams to Florida for the last 17 years. The team visits spring training and also plays games.
In those 17 years, Rock Creek (one year) and Silo (16) have played in the state finals 15 times.
His system works.
Bowen left pro baseball without regret and returned to coach five years at Durant without reaching the high-school level. Then came Bokchito, Rock Creek, Silo and all of the numbers.
“I’ve been blessed beyond measure,” Bowen said. “I wasn’t supposed to play professional baseball. I wanted to play in the big leagues, but I have absolutely no regrets about letting it go.
“I’ve always been thrilled to be a coach. I loved playing and I love coaching. I love working with the kids. We’ve always lost players from our championship teams and we’ve always had other players step up. Some of them hadn’t had the opportunity to play earlier, but they came through when it was their turn.
“We win in different ways according to our players. It’s a great challenge and a great privilege to watch the younger kids mature and take their places in our program.
“The one thing we always want to do is be aggressive. We want to force the other team to make mistakes and give us a chance to capitalize on them.
“I made my best move when I married Tammy (Smith) and we’ve had a wonderful life together for 40 years. Our kids (Justin, Trevor and Courtney) are healthy and successful.
“Reaching state tournaments was never my goal. I just wanted to coach. I think I’m doing what the good Lord wants me to do. As I said, I’ve been blessed beyond belief.”
Courtney is now Courtney Loper. She married Brad Loper, an All-Stater for coach Bowen. Their two daughters are now B.J.’s best buddies. She has never missed a state-tournament championship game coached by her dad.
Bowen-coached teams won eight championships with Justin and Trevor as players. Justin helped coach another three titles.
With his 38th year of coaching under way, is there a timeline for retirement?
“I haven’t even thought about retirement,” Bowen said. “I enjoy what I’m doing and our kids have bought into our program. I can’t see a reason to change any of that.”
How many more state championships? Stay tuned.
Anybody have fingers or thumbs or toes to spare?
Harold Harmon is the retired Sports Editor at the Democrat and Sports Information Director at Southeastern