CRETE | When he isn't teaching or coaching baseball, Gene Cahan can usually be found with a rake working on the Crete-Monee High School baseball diamond.
It as if he is polishing every piece of grass.
When he is working with his baseball team, Cahan makes sure everyone knows his assignments or positioning to play a certain hitter.
It is hard to imagine someone other than Cahan at the helm of the Crete-Monee baseball program.
"This is his life," senior Mike Wojtanowski said. "We are his kids and the field; I guess that is really his baby. He really takes care of it and we do, too. We learned how to appreciate the things we have.
"He has put his life into this program."
Cahan recently won his 400th game as is in his 25th year as the program's head coach and 28th overall at the school. Cahan is 415-381-2 heading into the Class 3A Crete-Monee Regional. His teams have won five regional championships, the last in 2008. Cahan has also won nine conference titles, including this year's Southland Athletic Conference title. The conference titles go back to the now-defunct SICA South.
"I almost got 400 losses too," Cahan said. "I guess that 400 means I just have been around a long time."
At least long enough to coach sons of former players. Greg Barksdale Sr. was on Cahan's first team in 1987. His son, Greg Jr., played for Cahan and is a 2010 Crete grad. Greg Jr. was The Times 2009 Defensive Player of the Year in football.
Greg Sr. said one thing that Cahan still emphasizes the same discipline he taught as a young coach.
"I was one of the better players and I was three minutes late (for pregame) for a big game at Oak Forest and he sat me," Barksdale Sr. said. " I still remember this to this day. Gene preached about being on time and accountable."
Senior John McLaughlin said Cahan teaches more than hitting. McLaughlin is a four-year starter, a position Cahan played at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School and Kankakee Community College.
"What he teaches is to play smart and be accountable," McLaughlin said. "You can tell he loves the school and he loves the game. He is always willing to work with us and to make sure we do things the right way."
Barksdale Sr. said he was honored that his son had the chance to play for the same coach he did.
"It was kind of nice to see Junior play for Gene and it was also special," he said. "You think of him, I remember when he was young, of course, I was young too, and he still has that energy and love for the kids and the game. Don't forget, he is also athletic director and he has done a lot of things for Crete-Monee High School."
Cahan said having former players come back is what makes it special.
"It's about the kids," Cahan said. "That's why I do this and love it. It is great to see them have success, but it is really nice to see them have success in life and come back and visit and talk to their old coach.
"I can't describe the feeling, but it is a good one."