End of an era: High school coaches reflect on 30 years of summer baseball ahead of last inning

MILWAUKEE -- You might not realize that even though the school year is long over, there's still one high school sport being played: summer baseball, which features teams that don't play spring baseball, but starting next season, there will be no more separation.

FOX6's Tim Van Vooren goes Beyond the Game with four legendary coaches:

Tim Van Vooren: "You've seen it all, so what's the best thing about baseball in general -- not summer or spring -- but high school baseball, as a coach?"

Doug Gonring

"The best thing about baseball is the relationships you make with the kids and the families that you make over the period of 30 years," said Doug Gonring, Kewaskum High School.

Ernie Millard

"I tend to remember people a lot more than I remember games. Granted, there's a lot of fun wins and really difficult losses that you remember as well, but it's the process. The kids, absolutely," said Ernie Millard, Homestead High School.

Bill Albrecht

"I'm a pretty competitive guy, so it's a good competitive outlet for me personally to try to go against these kinds of coaches -- 'OK, my team against yours. Who's better today?' I like that a lot," said Bill Albrecht, West Bend West High School.

Tim Van Vooren: "Where is high school baseball in Wisconsin five years from now?"

Jim Hughes

"Well, I tell you, to me, it's boys of summer. I'm sorry. I've never heard of the boys of spring. It's just not a good thing to try and play baseball in Wisconsin in March and April. I think indoor baseball things are for the off-season. I think the first day you go to practice you should be on a baseball field. I think as a parent, I would be upset if my kid didn't make a squad and he never made it out to the field, and that may happen," said Jim Hughes, Franklin High School.

"I remember when I was in high school. I loved playing golf. We went to state three years in a row and I loved it. If we'd have had spring baseball back then, I would have never played golf. I would have played baseball, but I think baseball overall is healthy in terms of the players and the opportunities they can have," said Albrecht.

"I think high school is going to be fine. At some schools, you're probably not going to have three teams. You're going to have two, because kids are going to have to choose," said Millard.

"I can see smaller schools actually dropping baseball or maybe not having it for a year. I took a census this year and I think we'd have been down to nine players," said Gonring.

Tim Van Vooren: "Tell me about that hat in front of you and what it symbolizes for you as a coach."

"The reason I have worn that same hat for 13 years is that I tried to build a program that no matter who, the names change, we try to play the game the right way and build on the tradition of West Bend West," said Albrecht.

"I see a lot of our parents order a hat from us right away, as soon as they see it, so if you're a Saber, you have a Saber hat. That's kind of the way it is," said Hughes.

"The cap means a lot to me. I think it was said best to me by Yogi Berra when I was with Houston. The uniform will never change, so respect it, and it doesn't matter which uniform you're wearing. You've just got to respect it," said Gonring.

"I have always been that guy that loved putting on my baseball uniform and going down to be with the kids. It's the only high school baseball hat that I have worn as a professional. It's been a really special, special 30 years," said Millard.

The final post-season for summer baseball starts on Tuesday, July 10. An area will end with the state championship game on Friday, July 20 at Kapco Park.