2011 All-County Baseball Bourne kept machine rolling at Porters Chapel Academy

Published 12:03 am Sunday, June 12, 2011

In the dim light of a darkened baseball field, his face illuminated only by the nearby lights of the parking lot, Jerry Bourne approached a friend and tried to crack a half smile.

The pain in his eyes and the weight on his shoulders immediately betrayed his expression. A few days before his Porters Chapel Academy baseball team had taken this stinging loss on the field, Bourne had suffered a devastating one off it.

In the first week of April, Bourne’s father, Glen, was killed in a car wreck in South Mississippi. Suddenly, life ground to a halt.

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“That was definitely a trying time,” Jerry Bourne said. “He was my dad, but he was also my best friend.”

Even when baseball seemed to matter least, however, Bourne was given a reminder that it does. At his father’s funeral in Sumrall, Bourne looked up and saw a group of his players in attendance. They had voted amongst themselves to cancel a Saturday game and make the two-hour trip to support their coach.

“They helped me through that. I don’t know if I could’ve done any other job and been able to crack even a smile. Knowing I had those guys in my corner made it a little easier,” Bourne said. “I really saw my team rally around me. I knew they needed me, and I didn’t realize how much I needed them.”

In the days that followed, that mutual support helped Porters Chapel achieve the kind of on-the-field success the program has become accustomed to

The Eagles lost to University Christian in Bourne’s first game back, but won the next two to claim the District 5-A championship. The following week they won a first-round playoff series against Wayne Academy, then beat Heidelberg in Game 1 of a second-round series before dropping two in a row and bowing out of the postseason.

Three of Bourne’s players were selected to play in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools all-star game, and he was picked to coach it. Bourne, who left PCA after the season to become an assistant coach at Vicksburg High, also earned the Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year award.

“We didn’t win a championship, but it’s still a pretty good year. I can think of a lot of teams that would love to be in the position we were in,” Bourne said. “When you step back and look at the things we accomplished, we were well above .500, won a district championship, second round of the playoffs. That’s a good year.”

In less than two full seasons at PCA — he actually took over as coach a few games into the 2010 campaign — the 26-year-old Bourne posted a 31-17 record, won two district titles and three playoff series.

Bourne’s run continued a 13-year streak of postseason appearances for the Eagles that began in 1999. Although he didn’t win an MAIS Class A championship, the team did get to the semifinals in 2010 and was within one win of making the finals.

At the heart of that success, senior infielder Matthew Warren said, is a youthful enthusiasm that helps players relate. That, in turn, has led to a mutual respect and appreciation that goes beyond the baseball field and was exemplified by the team attending Glen Bourne’s funeral.

“We felt like that was something we needed to do,” Warren said. “If something like that happened to one of us, he’d be there for us.”

Being there for a friend in need is the kind of life lesson Bourne said he hoped to impart upon his players.

“I’ve really coached some good ballplayers the last two years,” he said. “I think we’ve been successful with wins and losses, how to play the game, but I also think I’ve taught them about life. I hope my success is defined by teaching them to be men.”