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Graves to leave St. Al after this season

[4/15/04]The most tenured baseball coach in Warren County will not return to the bench next season.

St. Aloysius coach Joe Graves, in the closing innings of his 22nd season, handed in his resignation on Tuesday, St. Aloysius principal Peter Pikul said.

“It’s time for me to move on to bigger and better things,” Graves said. “If you are anyone for a long time, these decisions have to be made. I am doing something to better myself.”

Graves, who also acted as athletic director, will continue to coach the Flashes through the end of the season. The team is set to play at Ridgeland on Saturday in a final regular-season tuneup before playing in the Class 1A state playoffs.

“I think Joe decided to do what was in his best interest and I respect his decision,” Pikul said.

Graves, who has two young daughters who attend St. Al, said he plans to coach the team through the summer season, and has no plans of leaving Vicksburg.

“I don’t want to leave Vicksburg, and I am going to do whatever I can to help some people out,” Graves said. “I want to keep my kids in the community. I’ve been here 22 years, and I don’t like moving much.”

He said several schools around the state have openings for baseball coaches, and he has already begun to contact some of those schools.

“Everyone I have talked to has been really positive,” Graves said. “But it’s hard to leave after 22 years.”

In those 22 years, Graves has built a program that is consistently in the hunt for division titles and deep runs into the playoffs.

“I can honestly say that I left the program in better shape than I found it,” Graves said.

Graves’ first team won one ballgame, but steadily climbed the state ranks.

The Flashes reached the state semifinals six times, and advanced to the state championship in 2002. That team lost to Myrtle in the state title series.

This year’s Flashes, comprised primarily of underclassmen, are 10-9 and the second seed for the playoffs, which begin on April 23.

“I am going to do as much for these kids as I can,” Graves said. “I am not going to abandon them.”

Pikul said that he will begin a search for a replacement in the near future. He did not know who would be St. Al’s next athletic director.

“Joe built a very strong program here, and we are looking to try to find a coach to continue that success,” Pikul said.