From player to coach, Bailey takes over as leader of HCHS baseball program

By John Henson, Managing Editor

When Scotty Bailey arrived at Harlan County High School as a player, he joined a struggling program and quickly helped turn the Black Bears into a regional contender.
He hopes he can follow a similar path as the new leader of the HCHS baseball program. Bailey was named the head coach earlier in the week and met with returning players on Wednesday afternoon at the school.
“It’s pretty exciting, but I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet,” Bailey said Thursday. “I dreamed about being a coach since Little League. My goal was to come back and help Harlan County win the region. I couldn’t be more honored and blessed to be in the position I’m in now.”
“It says a lot to the public about your school whenever you have alumni that come back and want to give student-athletes from their hometown the same opportunities that they were afforded,” said Eugene Farmer, the athletic director at HCHS. “Coach Bailey totally fits that mantra. After an excellent playing career here at HCHS, to return home and lead this team is a great story. He’s a young man with a lot of energy and no one will be able to relate to the current players like someone who has actually played here. He really cares about this program and the entire administration is really excited for him.”
Bailey replaces Drew Chamberlain as coach after the Bears recorded a 12-21 mark in 2021. John Lewis led the program in the first 11 years of the school, posting a 191-155 record.
The Bears were 8-19 and 14-19 in the first two years of the program but improved to 27-12 in 2011 and won the school’s first district baseball title in Bailey’s first year as a player when he primarily played second base.
Bailey played several infield spots as well as pitcher and catcher, as the Bears finished 26-7 in 2012.
HCHS had its best season in 2013 with a 28-10 mark that included a district championship and regional tournament wins over Clay County and a powerhouse South Laurel squad before falling to North Laurel in the regional finals.
The Bears were 21-17 in 2014 and won a third district title in Bailey’s senior season before he moved on to the University of the Cumberlands to play both football and baseball. HCHS posted a 22-8 mark in 2015, but have fallen on hard times since with five straight losing seasons.
“We are going to focus on hard work, discipline and attitude,” Bailey said. “We’re going to get to work next week, including in the weight room. You can see how much that can benefit you when you get to college. We are going to focus on being a family. We were very tight-knit here when I was a player. I want to get back to that. We will also be playing as much as possible in the summer and fall. I know that’s something we’ll start doing.”
“In a sport like baseball, it’s just impossible to compete if you’re only working at it from February until May,” Farmer said. “Coach Bailey understands that and I believe that through hard work, the wins will come.”
The Bears bring back several key players from last year’s squad, including pitchers Brayden Blakley, Tristan Cooper and Karsten Dixon. Isaac Kelly is back at catcher, and Will Cassim returns at first base. Nathan Shepherd and Jonah Swanner are returning starters in the outfield, with Shepherd also pitching.
“I think there is a chance we can be pretty good. The question is are they willing to work and put in the time this offseason. If they work hard and come in with good attitudes, we can get back to where we were as a powerhouse team in the region,” Bailey said. “I’m excited about Harlan County baseball and I want people to be excited about Harlan County baseball.”