HomeSportsHarlem baseball coach wins 800th career game

Harlem baseball coach wins 800th career game

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When members of Harlem High School’s baseball team clinched the 800th win of coach’s 44-year career Wednesday night, fireworks exploded over the outfield.

After the 6-1 win over Grovetown High School, Harlem’s coach Jimmie Lewis, 69, called all the past and present Harlem baseball players and coaches onto the pitcher’s mound. Then he did a little dance imitating driving a bus to mark the 800th win and solidify his position at the third highest winning high school baseball coach in Georgia.

Joining Lewis was Mike Leverett, 60, who was on Harlem High School’s baseball team when Lewis started as assistant coach in 1976. Lewis became head coach in 1979 and that’s when the count to 800 began. Leverette went on to play for the Atlanta Braves and now works as the school district’s police officer assigned to Harlem High.

Coach Jimmie Lewis does a quick dance for his players as they celebrate coach Lewis’s 800th win. Photo Mike Adams

Lewis’ sons joined him on the field. All four had played for their dad in high school and now one of Lewis’s grandsons, Landon Lewis, is on the team.

Lewis’s brother, Tim Lewis, 58, joined the celebration as well.

“This all started in our front yard,” Tim Lewis said. “Our daddy went to the feed store, brought back a bag of lime and made a field in our front yard. Daddy put a baseball bat in his hand and a wrench in mine.”

Tim Lewis teaches shop at Harlem High.

The Lewis house was on the corner of South Bell Street and South Hicks Street in Harlem. Some of the boys who joined Jimmy on that makeshift baseball diamond were in the stands Wednesday night to support their lifelong friend, who they call “The Kang,” because he is a country king.

Coach Jimmie Lewis is greeted by his wife Nancy Lewis as they celebrate Coach Lewis’s 800th win. Nancy Lewis was there for all 800 wins. Photo by Mike Adams

Raymond Fulcher, 69, remembers those days in the front yard.

“You knocked one over the railroad tracks and it was a home run,” Fulcher said.

Fulcher’s son, Ray Fulcher, also played for Harlem’s baseball team and was coached by Jimmie Lewis. Ray Fulcher is a country music rising star with his top hit song “Girl In It.”

Harlem Head Coach Jimmie Lewis holds up a plaque signifying his 800th win. Photo by Mike Adams

Jimmie’s wife Nancy also joined him during the post-game celebration. They were high school sweethearts and married after Jimmie graduated from Augusta University.

She said she wants her husband to coach forever.

“I don’t know what he will do without it. This has been our whole married life out at this field,” Nancy Lewis said. “I swear I’m going to bury him out here.”

Jeremiah Hamilton of Harlem throws a pitch against Grovetown. Photo by Mike Adams

Randy Lewis, 40, said playing for his father was the best time of his life. And also one of the toughest.

“If I messed up, he was hard on me on the field, then at home he was hard on me again,” Randy said. “It made me better.”

Randy is left handed, and his dad coached just off the third base. Every once in a while, if he was mad at his dad, he would hit a line drive right at his father, he said. Jimmie Lewis always dodged the balls.

Randy nudged Leverett. “Tell the bunting story.”

Jack Decker of Harlem, right, tries to make the tag on a Grovetown base runner as he dives back to the bag. Photo by Mike Adams

Leverett was up to bat in a game against Aquinas High School, and the Bulldogs were slaughtering Aquinas. Jimmie Lewis gave him the signal to bunt.

“I never bunted in high school,” Leverett said.

He hit a home run with two on base. As Leverett rounded third base and reached out to give a high five, he could see that his coach was mad.

Jimmie Lewis said “Oh, you’re running on Monday.”

Tyler Simmons of Harlem runs home to score a run for the Bulldogs. Photo by Mike Adams

Leverett’s teammate at Harlem, Dietmar Perez, was the pitcher. He went on to become Jimmie’s assistant coach and principal of Harlem High School. He retired three years ago.

“It’s like a family here tonight,” Perez said.

Julian Townsend of Grovetown, center, dives back to the bag as Amerson Guy of Harlem, right, attempts the tag on a pickoff play. Photo by Mike Adams.

With his family, friends and players on the field with him, Jimmie’s bushy moustache could not hide his broad smile.

All those folks “means they love me, and they know I love them,” he said.

Harlem Head Coach Jimmie Lewis holds the plaque he received after his 800th win. Photo by Mike Adams

Joshua B. Good is a staff reporter covering Columbia County and military/veterans’ issues for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations Coach Lewis! His wins and longevity are a testament for his love of coaching young men and the game of baseball. Our community is blessed by his enthusiasm for developing young men to perform at an high level! Certainly, sports develop character, a will to win and more importantly the ability to learn from a loss. Kudos Jimmy!

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