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Gainesville's Vickery stepping down after 20 years as baseball coach
Gainesville High's Wayne Vickery announced he was stepping down as the school's baseball coach today. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

The Wayne Vickery era that produced five baseball state titles and 12 region championships is finished.

Gainesville’s 20-year coaching veteran announced his decision to resign Monday as the Red Elephants coach, just two days after Gainesville lost its first-round playoff series against Westminster.

Vickery, who produced a 470-129 career record and nine state semifinal playoff appearances, said he finalized his decision Sunday night.

The 2006 Georgia Baseball Hall of Fame inductee finished his career with 17 seasons with at least 20 wins. He was named Region Coach of the Year 12 times, Georgia Coach of the Year five times and was the National Coach of the Year in 2001.

"You never know when the right time is to go," Vickery said. "I always said I really wanted to win that last game.

"But I’ve had so many great players and assistant coaches during my 20 years here, I just knew this was the right time."

Vickery will remain in his position as athletic director at Gainesville High. A search to find the new Red Elephants coach will begin immediately.

"There’s no doubt that Wayne Vickery had a positive effect on everyone he coached," Gainesville High principal Michael Kemp said. "He’s going to be very difficult to replace."

Vickery said people may question why he didn’t stick around long enough to hit the 500-win mark, but his reply is simple.

"I’m just not a numbers person," Vickery said.

The coach that led the Red Elephants to Class AA state titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998, and Class AAA state titles in 2001 and 2002, said he will take in Red Elephants games in the future and sit on the hill at Ivey-Watson Field and think about all the memories during his career.

With his decision final, Vickery was quick to talk about some of the highlights of his coaching career from his office that is decorated with plaques, memorabilia and newspaper clippings from all of the high points.

He talked about how special it was to win that first state title in 1996, after losing in the semifinals the two previous seasons.

Another one of his most cherished memories was winning the state title in dramatic fashion against Lovett in 1997. After the Red Elephants won Game 1, Lovett was down to its final at-bat in Game 2. The Lions managed to load the bases with no outs. But Gainesville’s pitcher managed to get the next batter to pop out, and then turned a double play on the next hitter to secure its second straight state title.

Vickery also told about three-time state champion Victor Menocal’s final at bat in 1998. With an 0-2 count, he hammered a hanging curveball over the fence into Lake Lanier.

"There are so many great memories," Vickery said. "Coaching here brought tremendous thrills to me and my family," Vickery said.

Vickery never envisioned such an illustrious career when he relocated to Gainesville from Madision County. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to coach the Red Elephants had it not been for crossing paths with legendary Red Elephants football coach Bobby Gruhn.

Both men were their respective schools’ golf coach and met for the region meet at the Chattahoochee Golf Course. When he joined the Red Elephants, turned out to be Vickery’s first and only stop as a baseball coach.

Vickery said he still plans to coach Team Georgia’s baseball team in the Sunbelt Classic, with the exception of this summer when he’ll have hip replacement surgery.

His plans for future free time include seeing more of Gainesville grad and Arizona Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings playing in person, along with his younger brother, Atlanta Braves minor-leaguer Jon Mark Owings. He’ll also continue to follow the Georgia Bulldogs as much as possible.

"We’re certainly going to miss him on the diamond," Kemp said. "It’s like replacing (retired boys basketball coach) Jerry Davis, it’s difficult to replace a Hall of Fame coach."