2/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
Feb. 2, 2008
By Marty Mishow, Southeast Missourian
Galen McSpadden will be inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame because of the success he's enjoyed at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kan.
But as far as McSpadden is concerned, his roots in Southeast Missouri had as much, if not more, to do with the honor he recently was selected to receive.
"I've lived in Liberal, Kan., for 27 years, but my roots and my heart are still back there," said McSpadden, a Zalma High School graduate who was a standout pitcher at Southeast Missouri State. "I had so many people from my home area help me along the way."
McSpadden enters his 27th season as the Seward County baseball coach with an 874-475 record, which ranks 28th in NJCAA history for most career wins.
McSpadden, who also has served as the Seward County athletic director for the past 24 years, will be inducted at the NJCAA Baseball World Series banquet May 23 in Grand Junction, Colo.
"It was a big surprise when I found out. It's a very big honor," said McSpadden, who in 2004 led the Saints to the NJCAA World Series for the first time in school history. "It makes me very appreciative of all the players I've coached with and worked with along the way.
"I didn't hit a home run or make a pitch, catch a fly ball or field a ground ball in 26 years. But it's nice to know there are people out there who noticed."
People who followed Southeast baseball in the early 1970s no doubt noticed McSpadden's playing career under legendary coach Joe Uhls.
McSpadden, a left-hander for the then-Indians from 1971 through 1974, still ranks high near the top of the school's record lists.
McSpadden holds the single-season mark for strikeouts per nine innings, with an average of 12.14 in 1973.
His ERA of 1.47 in 1973 and 1.53 in 1974 are fourth and fifth all-time. For his career, he ranks fourth in strikeouts (204), fifth in ERA (2.65), fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.32) and tied for ninth in wins (18).
"I had no idea about all that," McSpadden said. "That's pretty nice."
Especially since McSpadden said he likely would have never attended Southeast had it not been for some nudging from fellow Zalma product Mike Payne, also a former Southeast star pitcher and now a Cape Girardeau attorney.
McSpadden said he originally signed to play baseball at Three Rivers Community College, but changed his mind shortly before school was to begin.
He contemplated Southeast, but questioned whether he had what it took to play there.
"Mike was two years ahead of me at Zalma and we had played basketball together," McSpadden said. "He told coach Uhls about me. I said I'm not good enough to play there, I'm not big enough. But Mike convinced me I could. He had an awful lot of influence in me going to SEMO. I owe him a lot."
Once McSpadden got to Southeast, he made an immediate impact, and it was Uhls who helped take him to new heights.
"Coach Uhls was very good to me. If he hadn't put me in the weight room as a freshman, I would have never signed a pro contract," McSpadden said.
McSpadden was taken in the sixth round of the 1974 amateur draft by the San Diego Padres, the 121st overall selection.
He worked his way up the Padres' organization and earned a spot on San Diego's 40-man major league roster in 1977 and 1978.
But McSpadden suffered an arm injury in 1978 and was released "within a week. It was disappointing. I was close [to the majors]."
McSpadden said Uhls called and asked him to be his assistant, a position he filled from 1978 through 1981. During that time he also finished his master's at Southeast.
In 1981, McSpadden was hired as the baseball coach at Seward County. He already was familiar with Liberal -- a town of about 20,000 in southwest Kansas -- from his college days when he played for the Liberal Bee Jays, a renowned summer team, and he even met his future wife there.
"We lived in Cape at the time, but Debbie was visiting her mom in 1981 and heard they had just fired the baseball coach at Seward County," McSpadden said. "I threw my name in the ring, got hired, and 27 years later the rest is history."
McSpadden, who has two adult children -- their son Josh was an All-American at Seward County -- along with four grandchildren, still has relatives in Southeast Missouri.
His mother passed away four years ago, but his father lives halfway between Advance and Arab, and his sister lives close to their father.
"I get back there once in a while, as often as I can," he said.
While playing collegiately for Uhls, McSpadden said he also played plenty of summer baseball in Cape Girardeau for two respected coaches, the American Legion's Doc Yallaly and the Capahas' Jess Bolen. He also played Legion ball with current Southeast coach Mark Hogan.
"I pitched a few games for Jess after I got out of pro ball, but by then my arm was pretty well gone after the injury," McSpadden said. "But I think so highly of Doc and Jess, and coach Uhls. They helped me so much."
The same, he said, goes for so many others from this area who helped shape his athletic career, and his life.
"I would really like to sincerely thank everyone back there in my past who helped me along the way," McSpadden said. "I really appreciate everything they did for me.
"To receive this kind of an honor. ... I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many good people."