Experience galore on Janesville 14U bench
Baseball is game passed from generation to generation.
Not much represents that better than Janesville’s 14U baseball team, which is headed to the Ohio Valley Regional in Henderson, Kentucky.
Jim Kauss, an assistant coach, is 77 years old. For Janesville baseball observers, it seems Kauss has been involved with youth baseball for 75 of those years.
The actual number is 50-plus.
“I ran into a guy the other day that I coached when he was 13,” Kauss said. “I asked him how old he was now. He said, ‘63.’ You do the math. And I don’t think he was on the first team I coached.”
Tom Davey is one of the hundreds of players whom Kauss coached.
Davey, 45, is the head coach of the 14U squad. Kauss and Davey have been on the same bench for countless seasons, starting when Kauss first met the 12-year-old Davey.
Three years later, Kauss was coach of the Janesville 15-year-old squad that won a state tournament with Davey in the outfield.
The Kauss-Davey combination started in earnest when Davey returned to coaching summer baseball here in 2007. He had run the Deerfield summer program the previous 11 years after he was named baseball coach at Deerfield High.
He still was a fixture in the stands during Janesville summer games at that time. During one game, a friend came up to Davey and asked him to coach his 12-year-old son.
Davey considered the request. He then called Kauss.
“I wasn’t going to do it if he wasn’t going to do it,” Davey said. “And he wasn’t going to do it if I wasn’t going to do it.”
They did it.
Davey still marvels at Kauss.
“It’s fantastic the way he relates to players,” Davey said. “He’s so well-versed on what to tell the kids. His life lessons run so deep.”
Their first two Babe Ruth teams in 2007 and 2008 won state titles.
Nolan Stearns was on both of those teams as a catcher and infielder.
“The first thing you notice when you meet (Davey) is the passion he has for the game,” Stearns said.
Stearns went on to play at Janesville Craig High and for the Janesville American Legion team.
Two years ago, Davey approached his former player about becoming an assistant coach.
“I think he might have seen a little bit of himself in me,” Stearns said, “as far as the passion and fire for the game.”
Davey, who had been shown the ropes by legends Roy Coyle and Kauss, wants to do the same for Stearns.
“Roy Coyle and Jim Kauss took me under their wings when I was a kid and just taught me lessons I still use today,” Davey said.
Stearns, who is studying criminal justice at Blackhawk Tech, appreciates the experience of his two fellow coaches. The 21-year-old Stearns knows his role on the 14U team.
“I really feel like these guys are brothers,” Stearns said of the team members.
None of the coaches have relatives on the team.
T.J. Bell, the squad’s 34-year-old equipment manager, adds another quarter of a century of experience to the bench. Bell has been a manager on high school and summer league teams since he was 8.
“He’s a workaholic,” Davey said of Bell. “He lives for these baseball teams. He does all the grunt work and always has a smile on his face.”
The smiles reflect the feelings of the hundreds of players Kauss, Davey and Bell have worked with through the years. And with Stearns, barring a change of address when he graduates, the legacy might have a future torchbearer.
“I want to stay around the game as long as I can,” Stearns said.
Call it a lesson learned.
Tom Miller is a page designer/sports writer for The Gazette.