Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
Touchdowns, home runs, spikes, goal saves, 3-pointers, wins, losses and tears shed – they’ve all come aplenty at Coffee County Central High School through the watchful eyes of Anthony Baker.
Baker’s point of view is unique, as he’s witnessed both the joys of victory and the spoils of defeat as they’ve happened. Baker has seen it all, including the aftermath on the ride home as the primary bus driver for each Red Raider athletic program.
It’s a job Baker has taken on since 2008, one he traded for after finishing out an even busier farm and factory work life of roughly 15 years.
“You get to work around a bunch of kids – great kids – and it’s relaxed,” said Baker, who also serves as supervisor over all custodians at CCHS.
“You don’t have the hustle and bustle of a factory, farming. Got a lot of good people to work with.”
Baker is a CCHS alumnus – class of 1990 – and found it easy to accept the driving job when former teacher and CCHS athletic director Dale Alsup approached him about the opportunity.
“Me and [Dale] had talked when I first came over here, and he finally said ‘hey look, I want you to drive [for the sports teams],’” explained Baker.
“And I said I get to watch a lot of ball and sports. Not too bad.”
The price of watching an unlimited number of high school sporting events is time spent on the road, which for Baker – a married man of 27 years with two sons – can hinder home life at times.
“I have missed a few things my kids have done, not many,” he said. “I wouldn’t even take a trip if my kids had something special I wanted to see.
My wife – she doesn’t like it sometimes, but most of the time [she’s] pretty good about it.”
The joys, outside of winning seasons, also come from a few teams’ own version of what sounds like car karaoke to kill time on a long ride home.
“[The girls] love to sing,” Baker continued. “Probably the best [memories are] when I took volleyball and basketball girls to Marshall County for a jamboree a couple of years back… that bunch of girls was crazy.
They sung from the whole time we left Marshall County ‘til I pulled in here at the high school [parking lot].”
51 miles to Marshall County in Lewisburg is pretty standard for Baker, who makes annual road trips to Lawrence County and Columbia Central High School (both 174 miles roundtrip) for District 8-AAA basketball, baseball, softball and soccer.
Baker has also in recent years hauled the CCHS football team for playoff games at Science Hill (306 miles roundtrip) and Maryville High School (314 miles roundtrip).
“We used to play all local [teams], only had a few long trips,” said Baker.
“They’re in a whole, totally different category now. Of course there’s more kids here too than there was.”
Each number of miles depends on the route taken, but Baker says each trip becomes easier thanks to the athletes and the work environment surrounding him each and every day.
“You get to be with athletes – they’re a whole different breed than just kids [who don’t play sports],” he said.
“They’re not better than other kids, but they’re just great to be around. They’re always respectful.”
Reach Demarco Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @iam__demo