Coach Fincher Calling the Shots
Baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Generations of young athletes have grown up spending their summers sliding through the dirt and grass or enjoying a ballpark hotdog with family cheering on their favorite team. Dating back as far as the 1700s, baseball has endured through many economic endeavors and national hardships, including the Industrial Revolution and The Cold War, and it is still a favorite for players and fans around the country. Baseball has survived the test of time!
Baseball season is officially in full swing and there is no doubt Pleasant Grove High School’s head coach, Riley Fincher, and the Hawks have the state championship on their minds! These boys are coming in hot straight off their 2021 State Championship win. Last year’s win was exciting, to say the least, securing the third state baseball championship in the school’s history. The 2-1 victory in Rusk, Texas, was “arguably one of the best games of the year” according to Coe Blain, who pitched for the 2021 team. As the tournament drew near, the boys’ nerves were sky high and their adrenaline was on the rise, as this game was the biggest game any of these boys had ever been a part of. “It was a dream come true,” said Blain. All the boys had high expectations for themselves going into the tournament and, even better, they believed in themselves as a team until the very end. “Being at the bottom of the dog pile with my teammates was one of the best feelings ever,” he said, “and something I know none of us will ever forget.”
Fincher has been coaching at Pleasant Grove for nine years. Developing the fundamentals of baseball is important to him, but it is his influence in the lives of the players that he values most. “The relationships that are built is one of the greatest joys in coaching… from the players to the coaches I work with, to everyone associated with the profession. Also, being able to see our players develop and grow into young men, on and off the field, is awesome to see.” The combination of a dedicated coach and determined athletes has been key to the success of the PGHS baseball program. “Our young men continue to work hard and improve every day,” said Fincher. “They love the game of baseball and take so much pride in representing our school and community. The best part about them is they come to practice every day to work their tails off and get better.”
Baseball runs in Fincher’s blood and for those who know him and have watched him play from his earliest years, to his time as part of Texas High’s baseball team, it is hard to imagine him in any other profession. Fincher played baseball in college at Henderson State University and later joined their coaching staff for two years before moving on to high school coaching. Pleasant Grove High School Principal Kristin Giles said, “Coach Fincher pours his passion for education into all our students. He provides his players with the confidence and skills they need to be successful on and off the field.”
It is obvious Coach Fincher is loved and appreciated by the Texarkana community. But his accolades reach beyond this area as he was recently named the High School National Coach of the Year in 2021 by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA). Fincher admitted it was “an unexpected honor” to receive such an award. “The best thing about the award is that it allowed our coaching staff and players to be recognized as well. That award was a team and coaching staff award. None of it would have been possible without our amazing men and coaching staff,” he said.
To add to the excitement of this award, Fincher was the only coach in the state of Texas to be considered in any of the three divisions. The ABCA Convention was held in January in Chicago, Illinois, where Coach Fincher was honored and recognized for his many accomplishments and outstanding coaching. Fincher showed much humility when accepting the award, as he gave all the credit to his team and coaching staff. “I feel fortunate to be the head coach at Pleasant Grove and am overjoyed at the opportunity that this award allows the team and community to be showcased,” he said. While it was humbling enough to receive the National Coach of the Year award, Fincher also earned the title of Class 4A Coach of the Year as voted upon by the Texas Sportswriters Association.
“Coach Fincher is the best coach I have ever played for,” emphasized Blain. “It was an honor to get to play for him for four years. He was a great coach, but an even better role model for my teammates and me. He played a big role in my life my senior year and helped me with challenges off the field and I will forever be thankful for that.” Blain was thrilled to help his coach win his first state title at Pleasant Grove. A state championship win and the national recognition of the head baseball coach was a great and well-deserved end to last year’s season.
As the 2021-2022 high school baseball season is winding down, the excitement surrounding the team, Coach Fincher and the Pleasant Grove community has been palpable. Their hard work has clearly paid off as they inch closer and closer to the playoffs yet again. As the seniors prepare for college or whatever career path they have chosen, the excitement of another possible state championship title may be hard to shake. Let’s wish them lots of luck as they finish out this season with a bang. Go Hawks!