Roger Lower avoids recognition in much the same fashion a vampire tries to elude a new day's sunset creeping over the horizon.
That's why he wants to get to the bottom of something – like, for instance, who let everyone know he had reached the milestone win.
The veteran Blue Springs High School softball coach reached a milestone last Saturday when his Wildcats edged Truman 3-1 in an eight-inning championship game in the Blue Springs South Tournament.
It was Lower's 400th career coaching win.
Following the game, the low-key Lower asked his team to sign a softball for his trophy case.
“I never thought about him winning a big game like No. 400,” said junior pitcher Alexis Reid, who was on the mound for No. 400. “I thought he was just having the girls sign a ball because we won a tournament and beat the defending state champions.”
While Lower wanted to keep the milestone a secret, it became the talk of the high school Monday morning when activities director Frank Wheeler sent out an email congratulating Lower for the milestone win.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” said a grinning Lower, who now has 402 wins after wins over Lee's Summit North Monday and Park Hill South Wednesday. “Only my family knew about that being my 400th win, and I know they'd never tell anyone. So I need to find out where the information came from.”
And how did Lower know that the championship triumph was No. 400?
“Last year, we had to fill out a form for the postseason about wins, losses and all that stuff and I saw I was 15 away from 400,” he said. “So I've been kind of keeping track, but no one else knew – not even the girls.
“They thought I was getting the ball signed because we'd won the championship of the South tournament.”
Monday morning, Lower approached every member of the school coaching staff he thought might have been involved.
“Don't let him fool you,” football coach Kelly Donohoe joked, “he loves the publicity. He probably told Frank to send out that email.”
Girls basketball coach Mark Spigarelli added, “It wasn't me! It wasn't me! I wouldn't do that to Roger. Well, I would have if I'd have known about it.”
Adam Jones, the boys basketball coach, however, had to plead the Fifth, because he did admit to giving Wheeler the information, but said he would never reveal his source.
“You couldn't drag it out of me,” Jones said, laughing. “If someone wouldn't have told Frank, no one would have known about Roger winning No. 400, and that deserves some special recognition. Just make sure he's smiling in his picture.”
Lower is one of those rare individuals who's all about the kids. If attention comes his way, the spotlight feels like a noose tightening around his neck.
“Here's what 400 wins mean – it just means I've been around a long time and had great coaches and been fortunate enough to work with wonderful talent,” Lower said, downplaying his role in the accomplishment.
“(Assistant coach) Jim Brandner has been with me all 18 years and (former assistant coach) Denise Parker was with me 15 years. It's like I've said before, with the talent we've had at Blue Springs, I write out the lineup card, sit on a bucket of balls and take a nap during the game and shake hands after we've won.
“There's no secret to it.”
There's also no secret to his passion for the sport and those less fortunate, like the Joplin High School softball team that lost everything in the massive May 22, 2011, tornado that ripped through its town and school.
Lower was the first coach outside of Joplin to call and offer assistance.
“We'd gone to a tournament in Joplin for many years, and I couldn't even imagine what it would be like if that had happened to my girls,” Lower said, “so I called (Joplin activities director) Jeff Starkweather and asked what they needed.”
Lower contacted the softball booster club parents and before long he had a check for $500 and bag after bag of clothes and other items.
“We have the three boys, so Karen (Lower’s wife) enjoyed going shopping for foo-foo stuff for girls,” Lower said. “Those are the important things. Making a difference in a kid's life, helping someone when they're down – not 400 wins.”
Although, when push comes to shove, he does admit it was a special day.
“My family and I went out and we had our own little celebration,” Lower said. “But come on, I'm just getting older.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC