Steve RobinsonBob Grimes, the very knowledgeable Softball coach at Normal Community High School, is calling it a career when his team’s season ends – whenever that will be – having been at the team’s helm since 2002 but also having taught and coached hundreds of kids at numerous levels since 1977.

Currently, Grimes’ team is still in the midst of seeking another shot at a State championship. Since he took the reins, his teams have won at least 30 games a season in the last six years. That leads one to have indications of a mark of a champion even when the team has fallen short of the primary goal of winning State.

In addition to getting his kids through playoffs as a coach, Grimes has a championship of his own he is able to boast about – he was a member of the Boys’ basketball team from Lexington High School in 1974 that made it to State and took the town – and the state – by storm.

The Minutemen, under head coach Don Eiker that year, finished that season with a State Championship, their names etched in State Basketball history thanks to their 21-2 record.

Grimes’ buddies and teammates with him for the journey toward that milestone were: Eddie Moore, Bruce Armstrong, Sam Esley, and Doug Sinko.

“Basically, both of the games we lost were lost in overtime,” the 60-year-old Grimes recalled, as the Minutemen dropped one to Deer Creek Mackinaw and then lost in OT to Chicago Christian in an Elite 8 faceoff.

Of his teammates, Grimes said he has the most regular contact with Moore, seeing him at least once a week. In fact, being a part of that team spurred his competitive drive, he believes. The rest of the starting five all live out-of-town, Grimes said, but have been back to visit now and again.

In the sports Grimes played for Lexington at that time, “We were 9-0 in football my senior year, and 7-2 in that sport the year before. We were 28-2 in basketball my senior year, and we won 15 games in baseball.”

“We weren’t used to losing a lot,” Grimes said frankly.

Grimes’ coaching career began even before he exited Lexington High School to move on to Illinois Wesleyan University. At LHS, he was asked to coach a Girls Athletic Association basketball team—a predecessor to intramural sports back in those days.

After graduating from IWU in 1977, Grimes returned to Lexington and taught in the town’s elementary school by 1978. He was asked to coach Track and Field at LHS, which he did for eight years. “I became the Track coach because they didn’t have anybody else to coach it,” Grimes recalled. “And being a rookie staff member, I got the job.” After a few years, he moved on to Unit 5.

About retirement, Grimes was following behind his wife, Lorene, who just retired from State Farm Bank. The Grimes family also includes daughter and former NCHS Softball player Calli, and her husband who live in Memphis, Tenn., and who just had their first child; and son Bryan who lives outside LeRoy.

“I’m going out on my own terms,” Grimes said. “It’s a move that will benefit our family. I feel good about it. But I think I’m at that point where it needed to end.” He said he told his team of his decision to retire in a team meeting after the girls returned to school from spring break.

Grimes’ boss, NCHS Athletic Director Andy Turner, chuckled a little when asked for a comment about his Softball coach, explaining, “Bob’s been the winningest coach in NCHS Softball history. He put the blueprint on how to run a program and he’s always put family first. He’s always made sure people participating in his program did it the right way. His kids have always done well academically.”

Turner said a large number of students who played for Grimes have moved on to play in college as well. “He’s built a factory on how to build a program,” Turner added.

That factory has, as of May 23, amassed a 422-110-1 record. That included a Class AA State Championship in 2007, and being runner-up in Class AA in 2002. Grimes’ teams have won nine Big 12 Conference titles and are in the middle of trying for a 10th. “He’s done it the right way and everyone who sees his program knows that’s how they want to do it,” Turner added. About three dozen of his former players attended the ceremony between games on May 21 to wish their former coach well in his retirement.

The public address announcer at Saturday’s ceremony honoring Grimes between games of the Ironmen Classic Tournament recounted those stats for fans who attended the event, as Grimes, his wife Lorene, and various family members and former players surrounded him honoring them by seeing their former coach one last time.

NCHS Principal David Bollman announced the formal step of rebooting the tournament by formally calling it The Bob Grimes Ironmen Softball Classic. Bollman presented Grimes with a framed picture of one of the newly-printed shirts.

Prior to the presentation of the framed shirt, Grimes rounded the bases, in reverse order, from third to first, giving high fives to every single player who was participating in this year’s Classic event. Every single one of them. Four teams’ worth of girls from NCHS, Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin, Mt. Zion, and Washington.

Grimes’ players went so far as to add to his memorabilia from the day by presenting him with a home plate signed all of them.

Bollman closed out the ceremony by telling Grimes, “We cannot thank you enough for the memories you have provided us, and we wish you the very best. Those times you will be spending with your family are very well deserved.”

Grimes said he knew nothing about the three dozen or so former players who came were going to be present for his sendoff. He was able to laugh at the fact that when they opted to name the event after him, that “the word ‘memorial’ didn’t follow my name.”

Grimes has said when it came to priorities, it was family first. Here’s hoping once this softball season is completed he will enjoy continuing living by that motto on a full time basis.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 10:53 pm and is filed under NCHS, The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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