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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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400 wins and counting for Hernando baseball coach Tim Sims

Tim Sims never thought he would be a high school baseball coach.

"It's kind of ironic," he said. "When I was playing in junior college and college the last thing I ever thought I would be is a coach. I was pretty hard on coaches as a player."

After playing college baseball and a short stint in an independent league, Sims became an assistant coach at Pasco-Hernando State College, then at Hernando High. When Ernie Chatman, his head coach at Hernando in the early 1980s, stepped down after the 1993 season, Sims took over.

Aside from a hiatus in 2007-08, Sims has been the Leopards' head coach ever since. Last Wednesday, he earned his 400th career win, 11-2 over Hudson. When the final out was made, players Dylan Black and Connor Morgan doused him with water. Players also covered him in Silly String.

"I honestly didn't know how many wins I had," said Sims, who is the winningest baseball coach in school history. "That's not something I keep track of. I don't think about that stuff."

To be sure, Sims has made a big impact on the baseball program. The Leopards have had only five head coaches in more than 50 years. Two of those coaches, J.B. Caldwell and Donnie Whitehead, were there for only a few seasons. Tom Varn and Chatman were longtime coaches at the school. Varn won the school's only state championship in 1967.

As a player, Sims was a senior pitcher and shortstop on the 1982 team that won 30 games. One of his teammates was Jerome Brown, who went on to a successful NFL career before dying in a 1992 car accident.

When he took over for Chatman in 1994, one of his top players was a junior pitcher named Bronson Arroyo — who went on to play in the major leagues for 18 seasons, winning 148 games.

Sims said he doesn't remember every game, but he does remember the first time he put on the Hernando uniform as head coach.

"We were playing (Lakeland) George Jenkins and it was their first year as a school," Sims said. "It was a preseason game at Zephyrhills. I know it doesn't officially count but we did win the game. That one sticks with me."

Many, many more wins followed. Since his first season, Sims' teams have qualified for the state tournament 12 times. He had an especially good run from 2010-14. The Leopards won 18 or more games in each of those seasons.

In 2013 they won 24 games and advanced to the Class 5A region final. The top player on that team was Christian Arroyo, who was taken 25th overall in the first round by the Giants that year and is currently with the Rays.

This year's team is not bad either. The Leopards entered the week 15-5 and third in Class 5A, District 7 behind Nature Coast and Fivay.

Sims, 53, said he has no intention of leaving the dugout anytime soon. He helps run his family's furniture business in Brooksville by day. He said coaching Hernando baseball is the perfect balance from his day job.

"I wouldn't say it's a hobby, but it's a good way for me to get away from the sometimes stress of working for the family business," Sims said. "As long as I can still relate to the players, then I'm going to keep doing it. I've still got the itch."

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