Baseball coaching legend back in the dugout this season with Black Bears


Chris Jones

Former Cumberland coach Roger Morris is back in the dugout this season with first-year coach Scotty Bailey and the Harlan County Black Bears.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Only a few years removed from his playing days, Scotty Bailey went in search of someone to provide veteran guidance as he prepared for his first job as a head coach with the Harlan County High School baseball program.
Bailey knows he hit a home run when he convinced a Harlan County and 13th Region coaching legend to join him in his first season as coach at HCHS. Former Cumberland coach Roger Morris, who led the Redskins to nine regional titles in an 11-year period, including seven straight from 1985 to 1991, is working with Bailey and the Black Bears this season.
“I’m living a dream because when you grow up in Cumberland you always hear about Roger Morris and all the regions he won and how hard a coach he was,” Bailey said. “My goal coming into this was to see if he would mentor me because you couldn’t get anyone better. He watched me play growing up and always gave me advice. I went up and talked to him and he wrote me out a bunch a stuff on fundamentals, bunt coverages, where pitchers go in certain situations. I’ve been reading it for days and I’m still not done. I was a little nervous at first, knowing he was watching me, but it’s meant the world to me.”
“I feel good being on a baseball field again,” said Morris after a recent HCHS win. “We’ve had to do a lot of work to get them where they are right now. They’ve come a long way. There are still some things with their hitting we need to improve, especially taking too many pitches with two strikes, but it’s improving and the defense is getting better.”
Morris established himself as one of the state’s elite baseball coaches soon after he arrived at Cumberland High School in the fall of 1982 to succeed his brother, Vic.
Cumberland went from a strong program to a powerhouse as Morris led the Redskins to a 14th Region title in his first season of 1983, then led the Skins to a string of seven straight 13th Region championships from 1985 to 1991. The Redskins added a ninth regional title in 1993 and remained a strong program throughout the decade and into the 2000s before Morris returned to his native Virginia after the 2004 season, ending a 22-year run at Cumberland, to conclude his coaching career at Lee High School.
Even though he hadn’t coached in several years, Morris’ fame preceded him when he arrived for his first HCHS practice.
“I asked if he would come to practice. He walked in one day and our guys’ mouths dropped and it was priceless to see their reactions. He’s been here just about every day,” Bailey said. “I’ve told the boys how blessed they are to have someone like that here. The boys have learned a lot from him. He told them one day that if don’t get on you that means we don’t think you can do it. He told them it means we care about you.”
“You cannot talk about baseball in eastern Kentucky and Virginia without hearing the name Roger Morris. I had heard of the legendary status of coach Morris but never had I been face to face with him until he started helping the baseball team out this year, thanks to coach Bailey,” said junior pitcher Karsten Dixon, who threw a no-hitter Tuesday at Lynn Camp. “I did not recognize who he was until I heard one of my teammates say, ‘Roger Morris is here.’ The only thing that came to me was ‘the Roger Morris, the Roger Morris that I have heard so much about.’
“It is a true honor to have him on the coaching staff this year. Just being in the presence of somebody who has achieved as much as he has is quite intimidating. Not only is he a great coach, but he is also a great person who makes us as players feel cared for and loved.”

Roger Morris led Cumberland to nine regional baseball titles as the most successful coach in Harlan County history.