Ben Baier has enjoyed great success as the head coach of the Blue Springs High School baseball team.
This past season his Jaguars advanced to state for the first time in school history and brought home a third-place trophy.
One of the leaders of the team was Examiner Player of the Year Colton Pogue, an all-state shortstop who led the team in many categories – including the dirtiest jersey.
Baier spent some time talking about the player who meant so much to the Jaguars over the past four years.
Q: What type of impact did Colton Pogue have on your program?
A: “Colton had a huge impact on our program the past four years. He was a vocal leader on the field and was the type of player that you hope your younger players will learn from. This year in particular, he was outstanding. He became the sixth member in our school's history to enter our "30/30/30 Club" (30-plus hits, runs and RBIs), so that tells you something about the numbers he put up for us. But more than that, he was one of the players that we knew what we were going to get everyday. … Whether it was an indoor practice because we couldn't get on the field, to the biggest games of the year. … Colton came to compete and get better every day. That work ethic rubs off on others. It's an old saying, but when your best players are your hardest workers, then you have a chance to be special. Colton was definitely one of those guys for us this year who did that, among others.”
Q: When did you first meet Colton?
A: “I remember meeting Colton when he was in eighth grade and he came to a camp we had. You could tell then that he had been around baseball and had a skill set that was going to make him a good ballplayer. I've enjoyed watching him grow and mature over the years. Colton was a four-year letterman for us, having earned a letter as a freshmen because he came up and was on the roster when we won district in 2011. We knew he was a guy that was going to play a big role in our program's success over the next few years, and we wanted him to be around guys like Blake Pummill (former Examiner Player of the Year) and Jesse Gray to see what leaders at the varsity level looked like. I think he soaked it all in like a sponge, because even as our starting shortstop his sophomore year, he was not afraid to step up and lead the older guys on the field. That was impressive to watch. As special of a player he was on the field, he was just as solid off of it. I know my son and Coach Callahan's son loved being around him (and all of our guys) after games and team activities – just playing catch or letting him throw BP to them. He's a great young man who has an exciting future ahead of him.”
Q: How does it feel to have Colton named The Examiner's Player of the Year?
A: “I'm really proud of Colton. There are a lot of great ballplayers in this area, and for him to be named the Examiner Player of the Year is special. The thing that makes me most proud is the fact that he was able to do it this year, with this set of teammates. There were no 'me' guys on our team this year, and that is rare in high school sports, especially when things were not going our way (lost six of eight close games midway through the season). Colton will be the first to tell you that he couldn't have put up the numbers he did without a great bunch of teammates setting the table for him at the plate. I know this is an individual honor, but in a lot of ways, it's an honor to his teammates as well.”
Q: He was easy to spot after each game. How'd his uniform get so dirty?
A: “In terms of what Colton meant to the team, you just had to look at his uniform after any game we played. It was dirty – really, really dirty. That was typical of the type of player he was for us the past four years. He was a guy who was going to lay it all on the line every game. As a coach, you love guys like that on your team.”