When former Brownwood High School baseball coach Mark Cox looks back on the programs beginnings, he remember it as a fun, if lean time.
“The first thing was we had no facilities,” he said about reestablishing the program that had been dormant since the 1930s.
“We started baseball and all our games were out at Camp Bowie,” he remembered. “We didn’t have a batting cage. We didn’t have a lot of the things you need to go, but we were in the process of getting them.”
As Cox watched the current Lions baseball squad play the team’s alumni on Feb. 15, some of those memories came back.
“I am from Weatherford and we played Brownwood in football when I was in high school,” he said. “We were in the same district. This was my first stop – my first coaching job out of college.
“Brownwood was a traditional power and then later, when coach (Gordon) Wood offered me a position, it was definitely an intriguing place for a young coach to start his career.”
Cox said he stayed on for two years coaching seventh and eighth-grade football, then moved on to Austin Westlake as its offensive coordinator. But baseball folks in Brownwood were talking about adding the sport to the high schools slate of athletic offerings, and Cox would be called back to get the program off the ground.
“I was actually at Westlake High School when Coach Wood came out on the practice field and I was wondering what he was doing at our practice and he told me ‘You’re coming back to Brownwood,’ so I went home and told my wife we were coming back to Brownwood.
“And that’s when I came back and started a baseball program.”
That was in 1985, and the program without facilities wouldn’t have to wait long for those or for on-field success.
“We started working on this field during that time,” Cox said. “We obviously didn’t play on it, but we were putting it in. The next year, we got batting cages and it made a big difference. I think we averaged about 13 strikeouts a game the first year simply because we didn’t have the batting facilities.
“We got that corrected, though. We went from 13 strikeouts a game to three the next year.”
And in the second year, the Lions made the playoffs.
“Probably it wasn’t so bad for starting a program,” Cox said. “Because fundamentally, those guys got about three hours of ground balls. That getting the basics in translated into success that next season.”
Cox is currently the head football coach and athletics director at South Garland High School, but he keeps Brownwood close to his heart. And some of his former players have followed in his footsteps. Cox says he remains close to those former players.
“We have a lot of great friends here in Brownwood,” he said. “We were here three times in my coaching career. Mitch Moore, who is going to be the high school principal, was on that first team as my second baseman.
“What those guys don’t realize is I am not that much older than they are but they thought I was. My bluff stayed good and we have remained friends.”