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Coaching Baseball Has Been ‘A Labor Of Love’ For Dues

Bruce Hefflinger
Ohio Senior Writer

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Coaching Baseball Has Been ‘A Labor Of Love’ For Dues

VANDALIA - The first year as head coach of the Vandalia-Butler baseball team did not go perfectly for Trent Dues.

“We didn’t win the league, and I don’t think the sectional either,” reflected Dues. “I remember as a coach, I missed the tournament draw. It was just some chaos.”

It has gone quite well since that 1995 initial year in charge of the program, with Dues picking up his 600th coaching win earlier this week.


“After that first year we ran off 11 straight league titles,” Dues related. “We’ve gone to the regional finals several times and the only year we were in Division II we got to state.”

That was 2000, when the Aviators advanced to the state Final Four at Cooper Stadium in Columbus.

“That was a big accomplishment for us,” admitted Dues, whose squad lost to Tallmadge 10-4 in the state semifinals. “We had a really solid team, a solid lineup. All the pieces fell together.”

There have been other memories along his 30-year coaching career.

“We had a lot of dramatic wins and heartbreaking losses,” Dues noted. “We’ve been to the regional 10 times and made it to the finals four or five times. We’ve kind of been snakebitten. Two years ago we went into extra innings in the regional finals against Elder but lost 4-0.”

With the OHSAA expanding from four divisions to seven in the sport of baseball, Dues anticipates going from D-I to D-III in 2025.

“I feel like we’ve overachieved for the size of our school and with what we go against,” pointed out Dues, who now has a 601-220 overall record at Vandalia-Butler after a win over Sidney on Wednesday. “We’ve gotten a lot out of the kids.”

There is more that stands out according to the long-time mentor.

“I’ve had a lot of great coaches along for the ride,” Dues said. “The thing I’m probably most proud of are the facilities, and all that’s been upgraded.”

A turf field is not the only thing that has changed along the way.

“I’m more laid back now,” Dues said in comparing himself as a current coach versus back when he took over the program at the age of 25 after two years as a JV coach. “I used to throw (BP) two hours a day. I don’t do that anymore. I’ve had both knees replaced.

“We have five varsity coaches now. When I started it was me and Scott Thompson. I’ve learned to delegate more now … trust my assistants more than I did.”


Dues became head coach when Bob Castello hung it up.

“He had been here for 28 years and retired,” Dues related. “I took it over at 25 and now I’m 55. It’s been a fun ride.”

Admittedly, the game has changed … at least somewhat.

“Technology has been huge,” Dues explained. “When I started nobody was using hack attack, nobody had turf on their field. There were indoor practices back then. They’re almost unheard of now.

“Social media has also changed the game. Early on they wanted to get their names in the paper. Now they want their name on your website.”

But there is still a refreshing part of the game that remains the same.

“As far as players, I don’t see a lot of difference in the players,” Dues said. “They all want knowledge and most of the guys end up being good at getting that. But they understand you have to work for it.

“Kids want to play, they don’t want to sit,” Dues added. “But they realize they’ve got to earn it.”

That is something Dues learned early on and the rewards were big. Dues played for legendary head coach Lou Brunswick at Coldwater, and was part of a state championship team senior year in 1987, playing alongside Brunswick’s son Jeff, who is now the head coach at Archbold.

After that state title game win over Mason, Dues went on to play four years at Bowling Green.

“I didn’t get drafted and realized I needed to get a real job,” Dues joked about the end of his playing days. “I got into teaching and coaching and I’ve been here ever since.”


His family has been a major part of his life, both on the field and off. His wife Melissa, like Dues, is from Coldwater.

Oldest son Damon went to Wright State and played baseball. Now 25, he is in his fourth year of minor-league ball, playing infield in the Giants’ organization. This year Damon is with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Daughter Mia is graduating from the University of Cincinnati at the end of this month and will be taking a job in the business world in Tampa.

The youngest child is Koby, a freshman playing on the Vandalia-Butler varsity team as an infielder/pitcher.

“He’s comparable with Damon at that age,” Dues said. “He has a strong desire.”

A chip off the old block, no doubt.

“Doing things the right way,” Dues said about what he has tried to bring across, both to his children and players. “All parts of the game are important. Base running, defense, bunting, backing up plays. All of that is important if you want to be a complete player. I tell them you have to be good in all phases of the game if you want to be good.”

There is not much outside of baseball according to Dues.

“Baseball is a big part of my life,” Dues said. “I have Bengals’ season tickets but that's about it. Those are my two loves along with my wife and kids.”


So what makes baseball so special?

“The competition,” Dues pointed out. “The social aspect of it, the amount of people you get to meet, like the Brunswicks. It’s in my blood, like a farmer. I really love everything about the game. The competition, the work ethic it takes to be good and how hard it is to be good.”

There is a lot that Dues has learned on his baseball journey, thankfulness being a big part of it.

“I want to thank all the guys I’ve coached with,” Dues said. “There have been some great guys and I can’t thank them enough for the hours they’ve put in. And the players … They've dedicated themselves and put their heart and soul into the program. There’s also my wife for putting up with all the chaos. And there is chaos.”

That began from the beginning when Dues missed the tournament draw.

“Baseball is a lot of work,” Dues said. “People have no idea. You’re adjusting schedules, planning … things like that. In basketball you go to practice or a game and the basket is still there. You don’t have obstacles like baseball. And you’re doing it all while still trying to teach.”


There are no plans of giving it up anytime soon.

“I still enjoy the competition,” Dues said. “I love baseball. I have a freshman son still playing and the coaching staff are some of my best friends. We have a great rapport. There are days I wonder why I’m doing this, but there are far more good days than bad.”

Like winning his 600th game on Tuesday, an 8-0 victory over Greenville.

“It just means I’ve been around a long time,” Dues said with a laugh. “But it’s nice to win. I’m not going to lie, I love to win. I’d really love to win a state title.”

Yet, as much as there has been winning, there has been more that the game has given back to Dues.

“Everybody I’m close to in my life is through baseball,” Dues noted. “My youngest kid is on the team now. My daughter, while she didn’t play, is a big baseball fan. My oldest son is still playing. And my wife is still coming to games.

“It’s all just a labor of love.”

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