E.A. Sports Today

Tigers’ Lee steps aside

Cleburne County baseball coach, offensive coordinator steps down after 20 years, plans to retire from state system

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN – There comes a time in every coach’s tenure when he knows it’s time to go and for longtime Cleburne County baseball coach Vaughn Lee that time has come.

In a move not completely unexpected, Lee formally announced Monday he was leaving the athletics program he’s been part of for 20 years with plans to retire from the state education system.

He said he was “actively searching” for the next chapter in his life, but had no immediate prospects. He didn’t rule out a return to coaching in the future. For the time being he was coaching a travel baseball team out of Birmingham and, in fact, was with on the baseball field Monday night as he talked about his decision to leave.

“It’s time for me to go,” Lee said. “It’s a good time. It’s just time.”

In addition to being the Tigers’ baseball coach, Lee was their offensive coordinator in football. There also was a time he coached the wrestling team to keep that program going.

Tigers football coach and athletics director Michael Shortt praised Lee’s loyalty, the “high standard” he set for the baseball program and sincerely wished him well in his future endeavors.

“He’s done just a super job for us,” Shortt said. “I’ve got nothing but great things to say about him.”

Lee already was at Cleburne County when Shortt came to the school as head football coach, but he was one of the first coaches Shortt hired on his staff.

The baseball program had only one playoff appearance prior to Lee’s arrival, but during his tenure the Tigers have qualified for the state playoffs 16 times – the last 14 years in a row – advancing to the state quarterfinals three times, and won nine area championships in Class 4A and 5A.

Over the past 12 years the program has had 11 players sign college baseball scholarships. Additionally, it has raised more than $60,000 to make facility improvements.

“Our success has been built on players who learned to compete, deal with failure, developed into great teammates and carry themselves with a ‘humble confidence,’” Lee wrote in an open letter announcing his decision. “I am proud of where this program has been and will always be grateful to the players and coaches I have been blessed with.

“No one has been more loyal to the athletic department boss here at Cleburne County High School over the past 20 seasons than Vaughn Lee. It has come a time where my philosophy and direction of our athletic program no longer matches that of my boss. Therefore, I must choose between becoming a disloyal member of the CCHS family or turn my keys in.

“It’s amazing how many keys I have accumulated in the past 20 years.”

Shortt was not ready to make an announcement about Lee’s baseball successor Monday. As for the football spot he planned to move someone currently on staff into the coordinator’s position and hire to fill that open slot.

“This was a great, great situation,” Lee said. “I loved coming to work every day. I love football and I love baseball, it just depends on what time of the year it was, and I tried to do a good job at both.

“It’s been a good time, it’s been a good run. Most guys can’t say they’ve gone that long and been happy where they’re at, what they’re doing. I’m thankful.”

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