At Gcc, A Master Building Job Barry Davis Turned The Baseball Program Into A Showpiece.

Posted: June 13, 1999

When the 1990s began, the uniforms for the Gloucester County College baseball team consisted of one pair of pants for each player. The team's field was so shaggy, it had trouble attracting players for pickup games.

``There really wasn't anything to it,'' coach Barry Davis said. ``They had a backstop that was falling down, and the players just sat on benches. It was perfect for me.''

Huh?

``I wouldn't have wanted it any other way,'' Davis said. ``Anything we did would have my stamp on it. I just constantly made priority lists.

``It's like a house. You buy a fixer-upper, but you can't fix it all at once. You figure the bathroom and the kitchen are the most important rooms, and you start there. Then you move on.''

Thanks to Davis' handiwork, his ``old house'' has become a showcase for junior college baseball. After a season in which GCC went 51-6 and won its third National Junior College Athletic Association Division III championship, Davis' 10-year record is 389-96-4. The Roadrunners also won national titles in 1992 and '93. They have won seven Region 19 titles.

Davis has been national coach of the year three times. That's not bad for a 33-year-old who got his first head coaching job right out of college.

``It was weird, but I knew, ever since I was a little kid, that I wanted to coach,'' Davis said. ``Either that or be a broadcaster, but that didn't work out.

``I just worked really hard for myself, tried to be the best I could be in school. I kind of did my own thing; I was more of a loner. Nobody had to tell me what to do. I didn't ask anybody a whole lot of things. I just did what I thought was right and worked it out myself.''

Davis grew up in Charlottesville, Va., and played football and baseball at Albemarle High School. He was an all-conference second baseman in his junior and senior years, but he says, ``I was a very average high school player, and when I went to college, I wanted to go somewhere where I could play.''

Davis attended Bridgewater College in Virginia and played four years of baseball there, improving each season.

``My main reason for playing was to learn as much as I could so I could be a coach,'' said Davis, who graduated in 1987 with a physical education degree.

After getting out of school, Davis served as a volunteer assistant at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., for one year before transferring to Frostburg State in Maryland to become a graduate assistant and complete his master's degree in education.

In 1990, Gloucester hired him at the ripe old age of 24. He replaced Chick Dudley, who had been the coach for only the 1989 season.

``I came in with a pretty good attitude, like I was going to make a difference in the program, and anyone who doesn't want to be a part of it doesn't have to be,'' Davis said. ``I didn't select the team that first year. They were already here. That was tough, because they didn't really accept me and what I wanted to do.''

Unlike many young coaches who start out to conquer the world only to be crushed by it, Davis made his ideas work. With help from the administration, which he credits for strong support, the facilities began to improve. So did the product.

GCC went 20-8 and 25-10 in Davis' first two years, finishing second and fifth in Region 19. Before that, the Roadrunners had had just two 20-win seasons in 19 years of baseball.

The breakthrough season came in 1992, when GCC won its first national title in any sport. The baseball team repeated the feat in 1993. Since then, Davis has monopolized South Jersey talent.

More than 40 Roadrunners have gone on to four-year schools, and 12 have signed professional contracts. Bo Donaldson is currently pitching for the Anaheim Angels' double-A team in Erie, Pa.

Davis said Frostburg coach Bob Wells and George Mason coach Bill Brown were two of his biggest influences, along with his high school coach, Donnie Wright.

``You're going to act and do the things you are taught,'' Davis said. ``If I was taught to steal, I would have stolen. You're influenced by your environment, and those guys were positive influences.''

Davis took from each of them and added his own fiery spirit.

``He's the best coach I've ever had by far,'' pitcher Brian Middleton said. ``He's very straightforward. I think most of the players understand that what he says is what he means - and he means business.''

``He's a real intense guy,'' pitcher Darin Phalines said. ``He definitely knows what he wants from you. I enjoyed playing for him a lot. He does a great job getting us prepared for every game.''

Davis, who lives in Pitman with wife Rhonda, daughter Amanda and son Derek, insists that he is comfortable with his situation at GCC. But with most of his career still ahead of him, he will likely look to move up.

``If I can better myself and my situation, I would look into it,'' he said. ``But I'm not going to jump to [an NCAA] Division I job just to say I'm a Division I coach. I have a good situation here. I just have to be intelligent about my choices.''

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