Higher calling leads Wathen to step down at John Wood

QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) — Greg Wathen won’t leave with many regrets but he did want to reach 600 career victories as the architect of the John Wood baseball program.

It turns out Wathen will exit four wins short.

However, his lasting impact will be felt a lot more than an individual milestone.

Wathen has resigned as leader of the Blazers following 25 seasons and 596 wins.

He’s doing so to team up with his former player, and assistant coach, Matt Stembridge, who’s in his first season as general manager of the Prospect League’s Hannibal Hoots.

Wathen will continue his role as assistant GM with the Hoots fulfilling a previous pact with Stembridge.

"I always told him if he came calling I’d do whatever I could (to help)," Wathen said.

"It just turns out the demands of what he needs are maybe greater than what I could provide if I stayed on at John Wood. For years it was a mentor relationship – he was a player, a student, and then an assistant, but it’s morphed much beyond that, and I learn as much from him as he’s ever learned from me."

Wathen will still have his hands and feet engulfed in the sport.

His responsibilities with the Hoots includes maintaining the playing surface at Clemens Field, and merchandise, which his wife and daughter have assisted him with.

Wathen says he will miss the coaching aspect and wanted one more season with the Blazers but adhered to a higher calling.

"I wanted to go out on top and I really think the ability is there but I’ve learned that sometimes you strip away your pride," he added.

"Sometimes I think it’s hard to hear the voice of God when pride is getting in the way. Last week I prayed for the week, ‘Lord, strip away my pride and then I’ll make a decision,’ and I think once he removed that, it was easy to hear the voice, and to realize that it was time to (resign)."

Wathen estimates he’s made around a combined 100 phone calls and text messages to current, and former players, regarding his decision and says the best part is hearing the ‘I love you’ exchanges he’s had.

He leaves having coached more than 1,300 games split between John Wood and his first stint as a head coach at Hannibal-LaGrange. Wathen’s overall record was 636-737.

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