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Blackhawk baseball is a winning tradition, but it nearly wasn't an option for Pea Ridge athletes. Thirty-one years ago when John E. King was hired as a football coach for Pea Ridge High School, he was told to coach baseball, too. Soon after he arrived, the school superintendent told him that baseball would be cut because of costs.

"When I got here, before we even started playing, the superintendent said he had to make cuts," King said.

"I was kind of naive when I first got into this business," King said, explaining that when mid-way through baseball season the superintendent announced he was cutting baseball, he assured King he could coach track, too.

"As school ended that year, there was no baseball program," King recalled. "But, he (superintendent Bill Alverez) reevaluated; he said he would find a way. The next year, we had a real good group and went on to win a state championship."

Over that summer in 1987, parents of baseball players got together and told school officials they would find a way to fund the program. That determination saved Blackhawk baseball and began a winning tradition.

In 1988, the team record was 8-7, barely a winning season, but the wins increased and the losses decreased over the next three decades under King's tutelage.

In the ensuing 31 years, the Blackhawks -- and coach King -- have not had a losing season.

In 1989, Blackhawk baseball record was 22-3 and the Blackhawks won conference, district, regional and state. In 1994, the Blackhawks were runners up in state.

"We're very fortunate ever since to have a community that backs all of its athletic programs and baseball is definitely included in that," King said. "That has continued even as we have grown."

King, a native of Charleston, had been in the ROTC during college and owed the military time. He said when he finished his college and military, he wanted to be a football coach and had a mutual friend with Kevin Miller who was a coach in Pea Ridge at the time.

King, who played football and baseball in high school, spent his time in ROTC during college at Arkansas Tech University where he earned a degree in health and physical education.

"My football coaches were kind of big in my life. I had a good relationship with them. Still to this day, with one of them, I go on a father-son retreat," he said.

King still coaches football, too. Over the past 29 years in Pea Ridge has been offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and assistant junior high coach.

His assistant coach, Matt Easterling, coaches both baseball and football.

Someone commented that during baseball season, King shows intensity and Easterling is laid back, but that's reversed during football season.

King said he believes in the four Fs: fundamentals, fair, firm and fun. "Hopefully fun comes when we win," he said.

"Pea Ridge has been very good to me.

"I couldn't have found a better place to work and live," King said.

"I enjoy being around kids," King said, when asked about retirement. "I don't know how long I'll be able to keep running at the rate I'm running, coaching three sports."

King's career includes 533 wins, 15 conference championships, 16 District Tournament championships, nine Regional championships, 11 Regional runner-up finishes, four State semi-finals, two State finals and one State championship (1989).

"More so than numbers, coach King has been a tremendous mentor to young men and a great ambassador for the Blackhawk program," Kevin Ramey, Blackhawk athletic director, said.

Sports on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: King leaves legacy

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