A new chapter in the history of Barren County High School baseball began Thursday afternoon when former Eastern Kentucky University diamond standout J.R. Estes was named the new coach of the Trojans.
“I am very excited about this,” said Estes, who works in sales in Bowling Green and will not teach in the school system. “I have heard nothing but good things about the prior coach (Johnny Vance) as far as his knowledge of the game. And I think I can bring that, too. I have been very fortunate with my background to have a bunch of old-school, hard-nose coaches that I’ve played for, with or against.”
Estes does bring a long baseball background to the Trojans. He played college baseball at Eastern Kentucky University before playing for Bridgewater College in Virginia. At Bridgewater, Estes was a two-time All-American and conference Player of the Year. He also helped his team to two conference championships and two NCAA appearances.
After college, Estes played minor league baseball before taking a coaching position at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, Virginia. He helped guide the Gladiators to two district titles, two regional titles and a state title in 2013.
“I am just looking for the opportunity to come into something new like this. Not knowing anyone, I don’t have to say this son has to play or this one has to play,” Estes explained. “I get to evaluate everyone on a level playing field, which probably hasn’t happened here in a while. I am excited about looking at 15-20 kids and taking the best nine and putting them out there every day.”
Estes takes over a program that’s been on the brink of becoming a regional powerhouse. The Trojans are 85-94 over the last five years, with two trips to the regional tournament. Barren County qualified for the regional tournament last season, losing a 10-inning thriller to Russell County in the first round.
Estes said his style of baseball is to move players around on offense, and play tough and stingy on defense.
“With these bats today, I am 100 percent (a) small ball (coach). We will bunt, we will hit and run,” Estes said. “We will steal and we will put pressure on the other team.”
And that style of baseball requires his players to play hard.
“If someone wants to come play for me, I want someone who is going to work hard every day. I demand hard work. I am a hard-working coach, but the results will end up showing in the long run,” Estes said. “I know there are a lot of kids that haven’t come out in the past, but if there is anyone out there, I would like to encourage them to come out.”
Estes understands that he’s coming into an area of good high school baseball. The Trojans compete in the 15th District and the 4th Region.
“I don’t know a lot about this district. But I want to get it to where every year you can say Barren County is competing to win the district title,” Estes said.
“I have to do my research on that part, but at this point I haven’t really dug deep into the competition. I am going to worry about the kids I have and us working hard. At the end of the day, if we do what we’re suppose to do, we will show up and play well.”