ON SPORTS: Koch completes successful tenure as GM of Generals
Sept. 7, 2013 at 4:07 a.m.
GENERALS SEEKING HEAD COACH
Stephen Flora will not return as the Victoria Generals head coach in 2014.
Flora has accepted a position as a full-time assistant coach at Ranger College.
Flora led the Generals to the Texas Collegiate League championship series in the recently completed season.
Former Generals vice-president and general manager Blake Koch said the team is searching for Flora's replacement.
Koch said current Generals assistant coach Jonathan Burns is among the candidates.
Blake Koch has gotten to know Riverside Stadium like the back of his hand.
Koch ventured to virtually every nook and cranny of the old ballpark during the last five years.
He's been in the dugouts and locker rooms, met with umpires behind home plate, checked on statistics in the press box, visited fans in the stands, and poured beer on the party deck.
But there's no place more special to Koch than the pitcher's mound.
The mound where members of the Victoria Generals gathered after winning their first and only Texas Collegiate League championship in 2010.
Koch put together the team that won the title of the wood-bat league in his first season as the team's vice president and general manager.
Being a part of a championship team with his good friend and Generals head coach Chris Clemons is just one of the memories Koch will carry with him when he departs from Victoria this weekend.
He officially stepped down from his position with the Generals last week so his wife, Lindsey, could pursue an opportunity working at SMU in Dallas.
Koch, 29, has no qualms about leaving the Generals under the direction of new general manager Mike Yokum.
He's proud of the way the team has become an integral part of the community.
He's also ready to begin a new, if unknown, direction in his career.
But the self-described baseball fanatic won't forget the almost magical ride he's been on since joining the Generals as an assistant coach under Clemons for the 2009 season.
Koch was offered the position by Clemons, who was an assistant coach during the two seasons Koch played baseball at McLennan Community College in Waco.
Koch had only heard about Victoria because Brian Fields, a teammate at Hardin-Simmons, was from the city.
Koch stayed with Generals owner Tracy Young during his first season with the team.
Young knew Koch had earned a master's degree in sports management during his two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Hardin-Simmons.
Young was impressed with Koch's maturity and steady demeanor as an assistant coach and offered him the general manager's position after the 2009 season.
Koch accepted with some trepidation and immediately began calling other GMs and owners around the league seeking advice.
He went to work selling sponsorships and finding host families to house the players during the summer season.
The first player he selected was Memorial graduate Roman Madrid, who currently pitches in the San Diego Padres organization.
Koch recognized the importance of selecting players based on character as much as ability.
Koch was well aware of the gamble host families were taking inviting a college student or students they didn't know into their homes for 3 1/2 months.
Koch admits his biggest fear was getting a late-night phone call about his players getting in trouble. To his credit, the call never came.
He also understood the importance of player development.
As much as he wanted to win, he never put a player's future at risk to alter the outcome of a game.
Koch suddenly became the general manager of two teams shortly before he and Lindsey were married and settled into their garage apartment in Victoria.
The Texas Tomcats joined the league in 2010 and played their games at Veterans Memorial Park Strickland Field in Weimar.
Lindsey and Blake somehow made it through the year despite his constant trips to Weimar and back during the season.
When Clemons resigned after the 2010 season, Koch hired Yoakum native and former major league pitcher Ryan Wagner.
Clemons returned as head coach in 2012 before leaving after the season to become a scout with the Chicago Cubs.
Koch brought in Wharton County Junior College assistant Stephen Flora, who led the Generals to the championship series this season.
Through it all, Koch remained accessible and accountable, and maintained his good-natured personality.
He is looking forward to getting back home - he graduated from high school in Duncanville - closer to his family, but he won't be completely leaving the Generals behind.
He'll continue to work with the team as a consultant, while seeking another position, most likely with a university athletic department.
Whenever he needs a pick me up, he'll pull out his phone and watch a video of the Weiner dog races, his favorite promotion with the Generals.
Koch will also remember the good times at Riverside Stadium he shared with baseball fans from around the area.
Moments Koch made possible with his dedication and hard work.
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.