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Multifaceted coach earns Hall of Fame nod

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Bell gets in for baseball, also worked with football, basketball

By Todd Martin

When SCHS teacher Phil Bell turned the corner he noticed a lobby full of baseball players, school staff and family - something pretty unusual for a typical Wednesday afternoon.

The group had gathered to surprise and congratulate Bell on being named a to the KHSAA Baseball Hall of Fame, with an induction this weekend in Lexington.

"I knew they had put all the stats together, but when I didn't hear anything, I didn't think about it," he said. "This is a great honor."

A large group, including former players and family, turned out to see Bell get the information, including Hubie Pollett, the man who got Bell started.

"Coach Pollett got me in this job," Bell said. "I wouldn't be getting this honor without him."

Pollett added that the award was well-deserved.

"He did a great job," he said. "In either his first or second year, he was runner-up at state."

Bell put in 18 years with the baseball team, five as the JV coach and working with Pollett and 13 more as the varsity coach. He made the final 4 in 1989 and 1991 and won the regional tournament five times while compiling a 293-123 record. Plus, he coached with the football team and "a little girls' basketball," he added.

Bell was also one of the founding members of the baseball coaches association.

"I didn't know if anybody even remembered that," he said. "I was one of the first officers, but just about everybody that was involved with that is out of the game now. I think Bill Miller, at PRP, is the only guy still coaching."

Bell said his success was in large part not his own doing.

"I was able to do a lot of things, because we had a lot of great players," he said. "I had players that were able to make up for my coaching, like a lot of great coaches do."

Bell stopped coaching baseball to focus on his work with the football team and then left Shelby County in 2000 to coach at Western Hills. He returned to SCHS in 2004, working a little with the freshman football team last year.

"At times I miss it," he said. "But I'm kind of a strange guy - I miss the practices. I love teaching the fundamentals of the game and then seeing them executed. The games themselves, there was just so much pressure. When I stopped coaching, it was because I was worrying ore about not losing than I was about winning."

Though Bell said he has many fond memories of great players, assistant coaches and victories, he said one thing still stands out today.

"Strangely enough, my wife and I still talk about one play," he said. "We were in the semistate against PRP, and it was the eighth inning. Lee Tinsley was on third, and we were having trouble scoring. I had Lee steal home and -- I still believe the pitcher balked -- it was a bang-bang play. Lee was called out, but the umpire told me after the game the play could've gone either way. I kind of wish I had that one back."

When he was approached about the stats of his baseball tenure, Bell said he was at a loss.

"I really coached for the next game," he said. "When they asked me, I had no idea. I had to go to the library and look through The Sentinel-News. When I was coaching, I never really stopped to think about it. I was going straight from one sport to another. If I could go back, if I had the chance, I'd like to stop and enjoy the wins more."