|Former Monterey High School baseball coach Bobby Moegle (20), center, is shown with some of his former players. In 40 years, Moegle built the Plainsmen baseball program into a perennial state tournament qualifier.
Monterey became power behind its coach
BY DON WILLIAMS
For four decades beginning in 1960, some of the best baseball in America was played in Lubbock. Maybe when he started out, Bobby Moegle didn’t think ahead far enough to picture 1,115 wins, 13 trips to the state tournament and four state championships.
But as he sized up his situation in the early 1960s, the new head coach of the Monterey Plainsmen thought there was not much standing in the way of someone who wanted to put together a winning program.
“I found out the kids had great work habits, they were really eager to learn, they had great parental support,’’ Moegle said recently. “I had good support out of the school, and I had just fallen into a great situation that wasn’t being taken advantage of. We had good kids, good facilities, good people to work for, so I just really had a good deal.’’
So good, in fact, that Moegle didn’t give up the job until he had put in 40 seasons, building a dynasty and becoming, at the time he retired, the winningest high school baseball coach in America.
The Plainsmen won state titles in 1972, 1974, 1981 and 1996. They lost in the state championship game in 1961, 1971, 1978 and 1997. Five other times — 1963, 1970, 1984, 1985 and 1994 — Moegle’s teams made it to Austin and the state semifinals.
Notably, as Moegle aged toward his mid-60s, the Plainsmen were still as serious a threat as they’d been when he took the job at 26.
Part of the reason, Moegle thinks, is that the system he put in place was sound enough to work from one generation to the next.
“Now somebody’s got to lead the system, and they give me credit for that,’’ said Moegle, who will turn 75 on June 30. “But the system that I installed, if a person would have come in and done it the way we did it starting off, the system would have carried them on.
“I did not try to change very much from the time I started until the time I quit. I increased more (practice) stations and did a few things, but the game was still played the same way. The intensity was always the same.
“I really pushed kids hard to reach a level that they didn’t think they could get to. That was the whole strength of my coaching in 40 years.’’
It paid off in other ways. Several of Moegle’s former players went on to be coaches. A few, such as pitchers Donnie Moore and Matt Miller, made it to the Major Leagues.
But also numbered among Moegle’s former players are judges (Rob Junell and Jim Bob Darnell), a Texas Tech regent (Mark Griffin, whose triple helped win the ’72 state championship game) and a Lubbock Fire Marshal (Marlin Hamilton, who batted leadoff on the ’74 title team).
The principles that he believed in in 1960 — teach youngsters the fundamentals of running, hitting, throwing and playing intelligently — are tenets with which a program can still be successful, Moegle believes.
It didn’t hurt that the coach who filled out almost 1,400 lineup cards had a solid baseball background. Moegle spent three years playing in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system. When he saw that his path to advancement was being blocked by more valued prospects, he put out the word that he was willing to start coaching.
He was doing graduate work then at the University of Texas and got a call from a former UT assistant — Lubbock ISD athletic director Eck Curtis — to come to Monterey.
Not much serious baseball was being played when he first drove up onto the Caprock in mid-August 1959. As he looked around West Texas in those early years, Moegle said he spotted only a few true-blue baseball men coaching the game — Deck Woldt in Pampa, Blackie Blackburn in Abilene, Julian Pressly in Odessa and Speedy Moffett in Snyder.
At many other places, baseball simply amounted to extra work for a football coach, at least as Moegle perceived it.
“I had an advantage,’’ he said. “I wasn’t married at the time. We didn’t have any rules. You could work all day long if you could stand it. So I worked the kids extremely hard, pushed them really to the limit. They were receptive to it. I never did have any problems. It was a great beginning.’’
After he’d been to the state tournament twice in the first four years, Moegle had a telephone interview about the Oklahoma State job, but legendary OSU coach Hank Iba told Moegle that they were staying within the OSU family. Moegle said he also was approached about the Texas Tech job at least twice, and an old college fraternity brother who was in charge at West Texas A&M asked him to start a program there.
Moegle said he would’ve had to take a significant pay cut to go to Tech and he would’ve had to build a baseball field before a program at WT. Neither thought appealed to him.
“And I think the Lord has a lot to do with it,’’ he said. “I went ahead and built a tradition and a legacy here in West Texas, changing the whole philosophy on baseball out here because baseball was a stepchild when I first came. There wasn’t anybody trying to play this game out here.’’
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