Published 12:00 am Monday, April 16, 2001

a.m. n An hour and a half before game time and lunch has ended. Parents begin to arrive, then Horn Lake shows up. Temple and Broome are sitting in their office still talking game plan.

Each gives an opinion of the starting lineup. The other counters, then again and again. Finally, the starting grid is set.

“Randy is only an extension of me,” Temple said. “I have the title, but when it comes to the everyday things, it’s like we have two head coaches.”

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Some label the two as “good cop/bad cop.”

It’s not hard to figure which is which.

“He has a way with the guys sometimes,” Temple said of Broome. “He’s the nice one, and I’m the old mean coach. He’ll be an excellent head coach one day.”

The two come from very similar pasts. Both played at junior college Broome at Meridian and Temple at Hinds. Both went on to play at senior college as well Temple at Delta State and Broome at Mississippi College. Both played in their respective College World Series.

“You’re only as good as the people around you,” said Northwest Rankin coach Jeff McClaskey, who was Temple’s coach at Porters Chapel Academy. “He has great players and a great assistant.”

The players respect both of them, too.

“I don’t think there’s any other coaches that get as much out of their players,” Coker said. “Most teachers keep students’ attention spans something like 24 minutes. They have ours for five hours. They are great coaches.”

Great coaches usually end up moving forward. Temple has had opportunities in the past and is sure to get them in the future. When a team is on a roll for an extended amount of time, the coach usually gets the opportunity to move forward.

“I really hope he sticks it out,” said McClaskey, who has built Northwest Rankin into a state power over the last 12 years. “He’s one of the bright young coaches in our state.”

Temple is content, although he has had plenty of offers, to stay at WC. So is Broome, who jokes about riding Temple’s coattails to the next level one day.

“I would have no problems at all being his assistant for a long time,” Broome said. “No problem at all.”

The two have been together for four years and more than 100 wins and for now, the duo has no plans of parting ways.

12:15 p.m. n The clean, white uniforms with blue undershirts and blue belts are now on. The grill is fired up. The parents are starting to arrive in droves. The team mills around the clubhouse joking, thinking, preparing.

On the fieldhouse wall are several painted wooden signs that express Temple’s philosophy: Go hard or go home; Baseball done Viking style: All out; You don’t deserve to dream of championships without hard work.

Inside each player’s cap and in their locker is written a word of their choosing. It’s supposed to signify what he is.

“When they need a little something extra, they can always take that hat off and look at that word. They can bring their heart to the surface,” Temple said.

Heart is just one of an endless list of attributes this team brings to the field. Talent-wise, they are as good as anyone. They know everything about one another and are all close friends.

The team has a batting average of well over .300 for the starters and leads the state with 29 home runs.

Conservatively speaking, over the last six to eight springs and summers, the core group of Vikings has played around 500 games together. More than three complete major league seasons. In Temple’s tenure, he is 116-46.

“This team is one-of-a-kind,” Coker said. “Words can’t describe how we are.”

12:50 p.m. n The team gathers down the right-field line, all on one knee.

“Who’s gonna bring the fight today?” Temple asks his team. “This is what you dream of. These are the days you want. These are two good teams here today. Let’s go to war Vikings.”

A sloppily played first few innings has Temple in a foul mood. That will quickly change once the Vikings start hitting Horn Lake’s pitcher.

On the familiar basepaths, the Horn Lake lefty comes close on a couple pickoff moves, but Temple has noticed something.

If the pitcher does not look to first base, he said, he’ll throw over.

“Classic lefty,” he says.

Classic coaching.

No other runner comes close to getting picked off and before long, win No. 25 is in the bag.

Temple scheduled this series for a reason. Madison Central will play Horn Lake in the first round of the playoffs, which helps Temple’s old college buddy McCoy. But the winner would potentially face WC in the second round, should the Vikings advance past Starkville.

Again, Temple’s time is occupied by a reporter, but he abruptly goes into the press box to make sure his pitching and hitting charts are being done. He usually does this, but now a manager is in charge.

Just another way to get an advantage, to pick up tendencies. The playoffs are only two weeks away. He got a scouting report on Grenada, a possible Vikings’ first-round opponent, from McCoy, who charted Madison Central.

“Let the trading begin,” Temple said with a chuckle.

No detail goes unchecked.

“He has such a knowledge for baseball,” said WC assistant principal Bubba Hanks, who travels to almost every game and makes every home game. “He absorbs it. I’ve been around this game a long time, and he has two times the knowledge as I do.”

It was a non-game situation, though, that really made Temple knowledgeable. Things were not always so rosy.

The team was a dismal 10-17 his first season and had lost to archrival Vicksburg, 17-0, in a driving rainstorm to mark the low point of a low season.

Late in the year, Temple decided to build for the future. Several seniors were benched. Parents grumbled incessantly behind the fence.

All the while, Temple’s demeanor stayed constant, like a raging fire brewing in the depths of his gut ready to explode.

He hates losing. Still, when he talks of that season, one can almost see his organs grinding.

Now, he looks back on his role in those days and admits his faults. Fresh off a stint as a graduate assistant at Delta State, he brought the drills and discipline of a college coach instead of being geared to high schoolers.

It took a moment while sitting on the riding mower on Viking Field for Temple to realize he needed to change.

“I got on my knees and cried,” Temple said.

So began the transformation to the “kinder and gentler” Sam Temple. The yelling is still there, but it is usually followed with a hug, or an “I love you guys.”

“You can hate him 99 out of 100 times, but that one time, you realize that everything he does is for a reason,” said Coker, a one-year starter who is garnering attention from several Division I schools. “He’ll make you hate him sometimes, but in two or three years, you’ll come back and say Thank you coach.'”

Most of the time, the ones who come back are playing ball in college. In the last two years, the Vikings have sent a dozen players on to college ball.

This season, Taylor Tankersley signed with Alabama and many of the other seniors have offers on the table. College and pro scouts have become as common at Viking Field as wins.

Daily, the team’s answering machine is flooded with messages, usually from scouts needing directions to the field.

Other coaches around the state make special visits now to play Warren Central and won’t ask for a return visit.