Brothers continue love of baseball through coaching

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Eric and Bryan Allen have invested much of their free time in sport

By Ron Benningfield

Former Hawks baseball standouts Eric and Bryan Allen are viewing the game from another angle as both brothers are coaching the sport, one in high school and the other in college.

Eric, who graduated from LCHS in 2000, is assistant coach for the John Hardin High School Bulldogs. Bryan, a 2003 graduate, assists at St. Catharine College in Springfield.

Jimmy Lee, their maternal grandfather, recalls that the game has been a lifelong experience for both sons of Eddie and Mitzi Allen of Hodgenville.

“Every time one of them came out of the house, the little fellow was dragging a baseball bat behind him,” Lee said.

A power hitter with a career batting average around .440, Eric set LCHS records that still stand for most home runs in a season, 15, and career, 33.  The first baseman’s Number 34 jersey was retired.

He attended John Logan College in Carbondale, Ill., where his team, the Volunteers, won their conference title his freshman and sophomore years. But, after suffering a knee injury, he decided to take some time off from the game. 

He came back home and worked three years. All that time, though, baseball was always on his mind.

“Something was missing,” he said. “I wanted to go back and try playing again.”

He tried out and made the cut to play for the South Illinois Miners, an independent minor league team. In 2007, he was traded to the St. Angelo, Texas, Colts where through his manager he enjoyed one of the best experiences in his career.

“Our manager was Doc Edwards, who had played on the same Yankees team as Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris,” Allen said. “From 1987-1990, he managed the Cleveland Indians.”

Edwards opened Allen’s eyes and mind to aspects of the game he had never before noticed.

“He was the most positive person I’ve ever been in a dugout with,” Allen said. “To hear him telling stories about being in the clubhouse with those legends of the game was priceless.”

After being traded that same year to the Edinburg, Texas, Coyotes, he returned to Kentucky, married Jenny Whitlow, and settled down to finish college. 

He brought with him, however, a dugout full of ideas about the game and how pro ball differs from college and high school.

“Those professional players are in the game for their living, so when they’re not batting, they’re watching the other pitcher, taking notes on every pitch they see, looking for something that will cue them as to what pitch will come next,” he said. “It’s all business in the pros, for you must keep consistent, healthy, and on top of your game.”

He wanted to remain close to the game even as he moved back to this area. 

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but working in some way with baseball,” he said.

He became reintroduced to the game as an assistant at John Hardin High School last year. In his second year there, he also works at Players Dugout in Elizabethtown. A senior special education major at Western Kentucky University, Eric said he would like to teach and also be a head coach of a high school team.

Bryan’s path

During his senior year in high school Bryan, now 24, was a member of the Hawks’ team that advanced to the state tournament’s final four. He holds the school’s RBI record with 53 in a single season.

Graduating from LCHS in 2003, the outfielder was team captain for St. Catharine’s Patriots in 2004 and 2005. He finished his bachelor’s degree in 2008 in business administration with a minor in behavioral studies at Mid-Continent University in Mayfield. While there, he played two years as an All-TranSouth Conference selection and also served as assistant coach last year.

“When I got out of high school, I thought I would like to coach high school baseball, but after playing in college, I saw that coaching there was a better fit for me,” he said. “When you coach college, every kid wants to be there and really focuses on baseball.”

Returning to St. Catharine, but this time as a coach, Allen works with the Patriot outfielders and assists with the hitters. He also assists with the new Patriot JV program, works with the weight program and helps with the college’s recruiting efforts. He wears several hats besides coaching, including being a resident director and assistant director of student activities.

Bryan admits college baseball is much more than a late winter-early spring sport. 

“At the college level, it’s more of a year-round sport,” he said.

Once the players report to school in the fall, they undergo two weeks of “partner practice” in which upper classmen pair with lower classmen in workouts, throwing and hitting.

“We have eight weeks of practice with everyday intersquads, and after that we begin lifting weights and conditioning until Christmas break,” he said. Players work out on their own during the break, returning to weights and conditioning once the break ends.

“We also start indoor practice, but try to get outside on warmer days,” he said.

The Patriots’ season starts early. Their first game comes the first week of February. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics allows 55 regular season games plus playoffs and tournaments.

This summer, Bryan gained more coaching experience as the assistant coach of a Kentucky summer league team, the Fulton Railroaders, composed solely of college baseball players. 

“We had players from Division One all the way to junior college,” he said.

Loyal support

Both brothers acknowledged they owe their parents and grandparents most of the credit for their playing ball and possessing the initiative to continue from player to coach.

“Dad coached us all the way through Peanut, Little and Babe Ruth Leagues and we’re blessed to have such a supportive and loving family as him, our mom and grandparents (Jimmie and Joyce Lee, Leona and the late Jim Allen),” Eric said.