NEW ULM - Citing family and being off of staff at New Ulm High School, Jay Backer has resigned as head baseball coach of the New Ulm Eagles after eight seasons.
Backer posted a 140-49 record in his eight years as head coach.
Backer did submit his formal letter of resignation to NUHS Activities Director Chad Eischens on May 13th but wanted it not announced until the completion of the Eagles' season.
"I had made the decision (to resign) about three weeks prior to the end of the regular season," he said. "I just knew it was time as the season went on. It was time for me to sail off into the sunset."
Backer said that the main reason for stepping down was his family and not being a teacher (at New Ulm High School)
"As was written in an earlier article, not being a teacher and being a head coach is tough," said Backer, who is a police officer for the City of New Ulm. "You could maybe be a junior high coach but the time it takes to be a varsity coach and not being a teacher really took its toll on my wife and my children."
He said that his daughter, Maddie, had made a comment earlier in the season that she could not wait for baseball to be over.
"That kind of hit home when she said that," he said. "When a seven-year old says that to you and my five-year old son Tanner says 'daddy you have not played catch with me yet this year,' it was time to look at the big picture and look at being a father first rather than a head (baseball) coach."
Backer, who said his wife Jenny had been very supportive, had to change shifts and do 26 weeks of overnight shifts to coach the Eagles' baseball team.
He said that in his eight years "we made some runs at section finals for five years but we could no get over the hump. This year we had a very good team but unfortunately we had two games where we did not hit the ball as well as we had all year. I felt disappointed as a coach that we could not get to the state tournament especially with the program that we have here. I look at myself and look back at what maybe I could have done different. But baseball is a funny game.
"In this town if you do not make the state tournament, to some people it is not a successful season and that is too bad," said Backer. "It is unfortunate for the kids but that is the way the program has been established. It is close - it is still a very good program. The bar is set high and if you do not make state a lot of people look at that as a failure as a coach and as a team."
Backer said that in his eight years as coach he learned that you have to have thick skin.
"Between anonymous letters and text messages and parents meeting you after a game behind dugouts and in parking lots you have to have thick skin. You hear a lot of negativity - you get a lot of criticism. I get that in both of my jobs but it is harder in baseball because they are going after you and not just your profession. You have to be thick-skinned."
Backer said that this year's season-ending loss was especially tough.
"I have been with most of these seniors for three and four years so I really got attached to this group. These were seven seniors that had all good years for us. That was a long bus ride home from Windom (Tuesday)."
Backer said that there is an in-house candidate that has applied fo the job.
"Kevin Briggs is new to the district and he has head coaching experience in wrestling and softball in Wisconsin. He also played at a high level of baseball at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. He will run a tight ship if he gets it. But I know that there are other applicants."
His advice for the next head coach?
"Don't ever lose focus on making sure that the kids are having fun playing the game," said Backer, who coached with class in his eight years.