Career win records all have at least one thing in common you have to hang around at your job long enough to get it.
But then youve got to be worth holding on to that long to get there.
On Thursday, April 21, Perry Keith reached 1,500 wins with a Connors State program he took over in 1985. Hes made six NJCAA World Series tournaments in that time, the last in 2013, and his current team is 36-7 and ranked fourth in the country.
Currently he stands at 1,501 after Thursdays doubleheader against Eastern.
Keith has had his share of major leaguers, a dozen in all, and has had the offers to do other things at other levels of the game. But the sense of family both his personal family roots and those developed with his players has kept him content in Warner, surrounded by smalltown values and a connectional support base that makes every player an extended family member, bonded by a relationship with their coach.
Hes literally one of the best baseball minds Ive ever come across, said Bacone professor John Winters, who is also a longtime umpire in the college game. On top of that, hes a great motivator of young men. He could be the greatest coach in the world but if he couldnt motivate todays kids, he wouldnt keep having 40, 50, 60 wins a season.
Winters says Keith has a special spot in his own baseball career.
He was the first college coach I threw out of a game, he said with a laugh. It was at Midwest City and he got up in my face about a call I made and gradually, turned myself where he had his back to a gate along the fence and we got close enough to it, I opened and shut it and he was off the field.
Keiths had his moments with umpires over the years, and some will say you either love him or cant stand him. Good company there Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, those guys rubbed umps the same way, and they too were among the best at their level.
Dr. Tim Faltyn, Connors State President, has known Keith for all of the six years hes been affiliated with the school. The two attend the same church, First Baptist of Warner. Faltyn drew a comparison between Keith and another notable Warner resident, state representative Jerry McPeak.
Everyone either absolutely loves them or they absolutely dont care for them, Faltyn said. But what Ive noticed about personalities like that is when they make a connection, boy, its the strongest deal, he said.
Sometimes presidents and coaches get along great, some not so much. Where does he stand with me? Lets put it this way. He always brings me 60 kids that I would leave my 3-year-old boy with. He takes care of his boys and he makes sure they take care of their business. And hes there for him always, whether they went on to get Masters degrees or medical careers or made the major leagues. Hes about preparing them for whatever they pursue and being good husbands and fathers.
Korey Keith knows him as dad, coach and now, from a position of serving under him as an assistant coach with an eye toward following in his shoes career-wise.
I havent seen much change in him over the years, if any, Korey said. Just the fire and the passion he brings to work every day is incredible. He is the most competitive person I have ever been around and I believe that keeps amplifying the older he gets.
Caleb Knight, a former All-Phoenix MVP catcher during his days at Checotah, is in his second season playing for Keith.
The first meeting we as a team had with him when I got to Connors, I could feel his passion about his players and the game, he said. Take him at practice. He has more energy than half the kids there and hes been doing it that way 30 years. The guy loses sleep thinking about what he can do better.
That passion has helped make me a better leader out there, more vocal and taking charge of people. Ive definitely learned a lot from the way he coaches and what he expects out of me as a player.
Keiths son doesnt know when hell get a good nights sleep on a consistent basis. He and Simmons may be like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, two guys who grew old and gray piling up win after college football win.
There have been many who have asked him that, Korey Keith said of his father, And I always hear him say when the losing doesnt hurt any more, it will be time to be done.