Owen Coach Anthony Lee puts on baseball hat

Fred McCormick

Anthony Lee is a man of many hats. For the past two years, he’s been Owen High School’s athletic director. He’s also run the offense for the school’s football team since 1997.

The cap he wears from March to May that may fit him best, though.

Lee is entering his 16th season as Owen’s head baseball coach, a job he took over in 2000 after four years as head coach of the school’s track team. He’s taken his team to the post-season each of the past 15 years. He credits a large supporting cast with his ability to take on so many roles at the school.

“I stay pretty busy, but I have a tremendous amount of help,” Lee said. “I have to give credit to Chasity Simpson in the front office. She helps me out with a lot of the paperwork that I have to deal with. Our principal and assistant principals help me out with covering different events, especially when football season and baseball season are going.”

During football season Lee devotes most of his time to practice and the art of preparing to face an opponent at the end of the week. Baseball, on the other hand, is a longer season, with several games each week. What the two sports share in common is the constant demand on Lee’s time.

“I have a very understanding wife,” he said. “I spend a lot of hours away from home.”

Some of Lee’s less glamorous responsibilities include taking care of the team’s uniforms and maintaining the field.

“That field doesn’t get mowed or end up in the shape it’s in through natural occurrences. Somebody has to do it, and that’s me,” he said.

The Warhorses opened their season on their home field March 1 with a 9-7 victory over the Pisgah High Bears. The win was the ideal start to a season that has ended in postseason play in each of Lee’s years as coach. The team’s continued success if because of the continuity in the coaching staff Lee has had over the years, he said. But it’s also the players. “I think we have kids that are dedicated hard workers here in the Swannanoa Valley,” he said.

Another key component to a successful team is pitching, according to Lee, and the Valley has provided the Warhorses with a stable of arms this season.

“Between Holsten (Kent), Hunter Baxter and Brady Parker, who are seniors, and Brian Bartlett and a few others, we have a solid group,” Lee said. “I think we have a lot of boys, and if that group continues to develop we’ll have a pretty good pitching staff.”

Kent started for the Warhorses on opening night when Parker and Bartlett were only a few days removed from an extended run that ended their basketball season.

“We felt like Holsten was a good match-up against Pisgah,” Lee said. “He had been throwing for a while while a lot of the other guys were still playing basketball.”

Like most seasons, Lee will rely on pitching and defense to carry his team, especially early in the season when hitters are typically still working on their rhythm. Once the bats come around, this year’s team could take its coach back to the postseason.

“We’ve got an athletic bunch that will only get better as they spend more time on the field,” Lee said. “I’m pretty excited about this group.”

One game that will certainly be marked on Lee’s calendar will be Owen’s Wednesday, March 9 game against Asheville Christian Academy. The match-up will place Lee across the field from his former all-state pitcher J.D. Chaplain, who is beginning his first season as the Lions’ coach.

“I’m excited for J.D., and I think he’ll do a good job,” Lee said. “I mean, sure, I’ll try to wear them out. But I’m sure they’ll be trying to wear us out.”