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Former Kelly baseball coach Shupe's 8 state titles still VHSL record

Kevin Mays • May 13, 2020 at 1:00 PM

WISE — Mack Shupe refers to a quote from NFL great Bill Parcells when discussing his coaching philosophy.

“You are what your record says you are.”

If that’s the case, Shupe was an excellent baseball coach.

He has a 40-year career record of 631-173, a .784 winning percentage for the VHSL Hall of Famer when he left the game in 2009.

Only the late Tom Harding of Honaker has more wins in VHSL history.

No one, however, has more hardware than Shupe.

He started coaching at J.J. Kelly in 1970 and built the baseball program from the ground up, winning a record eight Group A championships, three state runner-up trophies, 18 Region D titles and 22 Lonesome Pine District trophies in his 33 years at the helm.

The 1963 Kelly graduate played junior- college baseball in Michigan before returning to the area to finish his education at East Tennessee State. After graduation and a short stint as a social worker, Shupe was back at Kelly — this time teaching history and coaching baseball.

GOING TO WORK

There were no state championship pennants on the field when he took the reins of the program.

There wasn’t much else, either.

“When I took over, we had no uniforms, no equipment and no field,” Shupe said. “There was a year or two that we had to play all of our home games at Norton.”

The players wore T-shirts instead of jerseys in the early days of the Shupe era.

He went to work building not only a baseball team but also a baseball program. A program that became synonymous with winning baseball and championships.

Along with that came uniforms, equipment and a field.

“We started building a facility and we had great community support,” Shupe recalled. “We just had great help from all kinds of people in the community.”

In 1974, the Indians played their first game on the baseball diamond that now bears Shupe’s name.

The facility has undergone improvements throughout the years and the stadium is still used as the home field for Wise Central’s program.

It was tiring work, but one that Shupe unrelentingly took on headfirst.

DEVELOPING PLAYERS

He was ahead of his time when it came to developing a successful program.

“It was 12-month job, seven days a week,” he said.

A lot of the never-ending work was focused on developing players.

“You have to have good athletes and you have to develop good players,” he said. “And you have to develop pitching. That’s the name of the game.”

Shupe built players, particularly pitchers, by the dozen.

“I had a lot of great pitchers over the years,” he said.

Arguably there was none better than Doug Bates.

The 1983 graduate had an incredible record of 40-1 and never lost a high school game to a Virginia team. His only defeat was to Class AAA Science Hill, a 2-1 decision in 1982, his junior year.

That also was Kelly’s lone loss between 1981 and 1985. The Indians went 83-1 over those four years when they earned the program’s first four state titles.

They also won state championships in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1998.

Bates, like Shupe a VHSL Hall of Famer, was drafted by Atlanta out of high school. He was one of seven Kelly players to draw attention from professional organizations during Shupe’s tenure. Dozens of others signed with college programs, including several NCAA Division I teams.

Another great who played for Shupe was VHSL Hall of Famer Charlie Beverly, one of only five pitchers in VHSL history to throw a seven- inning perfect game. Beverly went on to play at North Carolina.

Shupe had another pitcher to make VHSL history. Trevor Ruth is the only pitcher to get a win in both the state semifinal game and championship game on the same day.

The 1991 state semifinals, Shupe explained, were rained out, so the VHSL scheduled the semifinals and championship for the same day.

Ruth pitched a complete game to beat Wilson Memorial in the semifinals. He then came back that day and threw four innings against Lebanon in the finals before Jason Turner came on and closed out the Indians’ 7-5 win.

Among other notables to play under Shupe at Kelly were Danis Simmons, who went on to play for Virginia Tech; Lee Moulse; Chad Longworth, who was drafted by Cleveland; Tim West, who went to Appalachian State; Scott Church, who went to ETSU and was later drafted by Philadelphia; Mike Hurt, who played college ball at Radford; Forrest Belcher, who went to Dayton; Brian Kirk; and Chris Johnson, who went to ETSU.

“There was just so many of them, it would be hard to name them all,” Shupe said. “That’s the kind of guys it takes to win these championships. They have to be willing to give it their all.”

The development of players included starting early and building a solid feeder system for the program.

“We had a Little League program that had 12 teams at one time,” Shupe noted. “It was a solid program.”

Once players reached the high school level, playing for Kelly was not their only baseball activity.

Shupe developed a summer program in which his players faced off with players from topnotch teams from Northeast Tennessee.

“We did that for about 25 years,” the coach said. “It was a good indicator as to how good you were. We played teams that had kids from Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill, Tennessee High, Sullivan East and others. I thought if we went over there and played good then we had a shot of winning the state the next year.”

After 33 seasons and 546 wins with the Indians, Shupe retired from the Wise County school system and went to neighboring Norton where he coached baseball for seven years at J.I. Burton.

The Raiders, known more for basketball and football, went 85-63 on the baseball diamond under Shupe.

“It’s time to go here,” Shupe told then-Times News sports writer Bill Lane upon his resignation from Burton in the summer of 2009. “I think I’ve accomplished everything you could at the high school level.”

BUSY OFF THE FIELD

Baseball is just one of Shupe’s passions.

He has officiated high school basketball games longer than he was a high school baseball coach.

“I started officiating basketball in 1967,” Shupe said. “I’ve been doing it for 53 years and I still enjoy it.

“I’m going to keep doing it as long as I still feel good.”

Shupe started calling games with the Lonesome Pine District Officials Association primarily with two former association commissioners, Trigg Dotson and Gothard Bays.

“Gothard Bays was the commissioner then and I called a lot with Trigg Dotson. He was one of the best officials I ever worked with,” Shupe said.

After that association dissolved, Shupe joined the Appalachian Officials Association.

He said he’s always followed the same philosophy in officiating basketball.

“Officiating is like coaching. You have to know how to anticipate,” Shupe said. “You anticipate the play. You don’t anticipate the call, but you have to anticipate the play and be in position.”

Basketball keeps him busy in the winter season when he said he officiates about 40 games. He stays occupied the rest of the year out on the golf course at Lonesome Pine Country Club near his home in the Powell Valley area of Wise County.

“I usually golf about four or five times a week,” Shupe said.

While baseball is not at the forefront of his activities anymore, Shupe keeps the same principles he had when he coached.

“I always tried to be fair. I didn’t play politics,” he said. “I always tried to play the best players as long as they came to school, were respectful to their coaches and teachers and come to practice. I didn’t care who their father was or if they were an orphan.”

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