GREAT FALLS — The Division II Junior College World Series match-ups were announced this morning as Great Falls native and former Great Falls CMR standout athlete, Kevin Kimball, got the news that his team, the Phoenix College Bears, is headed back to the big show for the third time in five years.
Since becoming the head coach of Phoenix College, he’s seen his team start as the worst team in the conference to now the gold standard for junior college baseball and it shows with their postseason success and recruiting.
“It’s not easy,” Kimball recalled. “I think we’ve turned the corner on some things so I feel pretty good where we’re at right now as far as having sustained success year in and year out.”
The state of the Bears program has undoubtedly turned around since Kimball’s arrival as the Bears head coach eleven years ago. Kimball had plenty of stops along the way though to help prepare him for the masterful turnaround of his program. In his 21-year coaching career, he’s had stops at his alma mater, the University of Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois University, two different high school stints in the Phoenix area, assistant coach at Gateway Community College and an assistant in the elite Cape Cod Summer League. He even coached two years back home in Great Falls for the Legion programs which he admits that when he was in high school, without the now non-existent Great Falls Stallions Legion team, he probably would’ve never took to baseball.
“If that program doesn’t start, I don’t play baseball and probably end up playing college football somewhere. It’s just weird how life works out at that way. I ended up playing those two years and having fun and then had some college opportunity.”
That college opportunity was JUCO powerhouse, College of Southern Idaho where he played for two years before finding a home at the University Northern Colorado.
“In a weird way that ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made in my life on accident. I started to think the game more like a coach and I knew that was the direction I was going to go.”
Since he caught the coach’s bug as a player in college, it has never left him. Currently, he enjoys the challenges of handling every aspect of the season as the head coach for Phoenix College. He does all the recruiting, handles the weight room, manages all the administrative tasks, travel and obviously, runs the practices and manages the games. For most, it would be exhausting, but for Kimball it’s freeing and allows him to run the team as he chooses and the way he has done it has found success as they’ll play Florida State-Jackonsville in the first round of the Division II JUCO World Series Saturday, May 28 in Enid, OK.
Currently, Phoenix College has two Billings baseball players on their roster as Kimball hopes to continue to try and bring hard-working student-athletes from the cold-weather states like his home state Montana.