Updates with quotes
MIAMI — Chris Mercer is returning to his roots.
Mercer, a 1990 Miami High School graduate, has been named the Wardogs’ head baseball coach — a position he held for 13 seasons before moving to Baxter Springs in 2013.
“It’s tough,” Mercer said. “I love the Baxter community and the support I had there was outstanding. The administration was outstanding. It just came about being my family and being at the same place with my kids.
“I feel Miami is heading in a good direction. It was good timing for me to make the decision to come back and be a part of it.”
Mercer succeeds Jeremy Strack, who stepped down after five seasons to pursue other ventures.
“Chris brings a ton of success and credibility to the program. It will be good,” Miami athletic director Chad Davis said.
Mercer, a member of the Wardogs’ 1990 team that finished second at the state tournament, won 297 games — a .606 winning percentage — at MHS.
He had only two losing seasons during his time at Miami and guided the Dogs to the state tournament in 2001, ‘02 and in 2007.
Mercer assisted Richie Fretwell for four seasons before moving up as the Wardogs’ head coach.
He played for Chris Crosbie (who led Miami to 4A title in 1987).
“I have a lot at stake in it (the MHS program) with me having played here, graduating here and coaching for as long as I did,” Mercer said. “It’s special to come back home and be able to coach your kids at the same place.”
His son, Maddox, will be a seventh grader at Will Rogers Middle School and this gives his dad an opportunity coach him.
“Obviously that had a lot to do with it,” Chris Mercer said. “I get to be involved with the junior high program, with him being the head coach.”
His younger son, Mason, was a qualifier for the OKUSA YWL State championship this past season with the Miami Takedown Club, and his wife, Amy, also is an MHS grad.
Herd, who is in charge of the middle school program, assisted Chris Mercer then was elevated to head coach after Mercer left for Baxter.
Chris Mercer, who won 120 games at Baxter, picked up his 400th career victory in 2019 when the Lions defeated Labette County 9-1.
Baxter Springs qualified for the state tournament five out of his six seasons with the program.
The Lions beat Kansas City Bishop Ward to win the 2016 Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 4A Division II championship in Emporia, Kansas.
They were runners-up in 2017, losing 3-2 in 10 innings to Holcomb, Kansas, also at Emporia.
COVID-19 wiped out Baxter’s 2020 season before it even had a chance to play a game.
“I really thought I had a team that could contend for another title this year, but the virus got us,” Mercer said. “On paper, it was one of the most talented teams I had ever coached.”
“I am excited about it,” Davis said. “We had good applicants, including Chris. They all would have done a good job for us.”
The hiring is pending the approval of the Miami Board of Education.
2019 lost quarterfinals to eventual state champ Sabetha