Posted Date: 06/05/2023
END OF AN ERA
Billy Jack Bowen announces coaching retirement
By Kevin Farr
Silo Public Schools
After 37 years, 74 seasons and a whopping 2,679 official games, the nation’s all-time baseball coaching wins leader has called it a career as Silo’s Billy Jack Bowen officially announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Bowen amassed state championship number 24 less than two weeks ago when the Rebels defeated Amber-Pocasset, 6-5, for their state record tying 6th consecutive title. That state title mark is second only to his uncle Murl in Oklahoma state baseball history. His 2,252 career victories are the most in state and national history as he finishes up with an unbelievable .841 winning percentage (2252-427 record).
In 23 years at Silo he led the Rebels to 19 state championships with his other 14 years at Rock Creek/Bokchito, bringing home five state titles. During his legendary career, Bowen won at least one state championship in five different decades.
The 66-year-old admitted he had been mulling over the decision a while but knew it was the right time to unassumingly call it a career. In fact, it was between games of a high school summer league doubleheader when he broke the news to his team.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while and worked tremendously hard at it and just decided it was the time to move on to something else,” Bowen commented. “I’ve put in my time, and it’s been good. I’m still in good health but you just kind of know when you know. I didn’t need any fanfare. I came in simple to the job here 23 years ago and was just going to go out the same way.
“We hoped it would work when we came to Silo, and it has. I feel good about it. Nobody can imagine what has taken place here in the last 23 years. It’s been really good, and it’s been really fun. That’s why you don’t have any regrets. I’ve worked hard at it and hard work has paid off. There’s a reason nowadays that you don’t see many baseball coaches stay in it that long. It takes a lot of work outside of just coaching baseball and it’s just too much for a lot of them.”
Bowen’s illustrious coaching career has been loaded with legendary honors.
Just this spring he was selected by the National Federation of High School Sports 2022 National Baseball Coach of the Year. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award alongside his uncle and brother Randy. He has been selected State Coach of the Year, Sectional Coach of the Year and is a two-time Oklahoma Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year.
In July, he will culminate things with an induction to the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame to go along with his Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame induction in 2004.
“It’s nice that people recognize that you’ve done something well and at a high level,” Bowen added. “When you start evaluating what has happened here it’s hard to fathom. It’s tough to believe that much success can come to one program. I am happy we were able to go out a winner and it was good we had a great group of seniors to finish up with but that had zero to do with me retiring. I’ve done what I needed to do, and we’ve been successful every year. When you get through running your race you’re done. We’ve had a lot of good times with a lot of good players and a lot of good memories. I absolutely had a ball.
“One of my goals was to have fun and we literally had a blast doing it. That was the goal for all those involved. I tried to figure out how many scholarship players I have had that have managed to get their college paid for. That has been a key thing for me because I was one of those guys that couldn’t have afforded to go to college had it not been for an athletic scholarship. I’ve been able to offer that to a lot of kids over the years. I want them to experience the fun that I had while I was in college. The fun stuff is seeing those kids moving on to the next level.”
The 1975 Silo High graduate played collegiately at Grayson College and Southeastern, where he was a Hall of Fame inductee in 2010. He made a brief stint in professional baseball with the Atlanta Braves organization before beginning his coaching career at Durant in the mid-1980s.
He coached girls’ and boys’ basketball in addition to baseball at Bokchito, which consolidated into Rock Creek, making 10 total trips to state on the hardwood as well. His coaching journey then returned to Silo in 2000.
Bowen will still be on the field wearing the Rebel red and blue through the remainder of the summer to help out during the transition phase and plans to continue as one of his alma mater’s biggest supporters.
“I feel good about where the program is at,” he said. “We’ve got good players and good kids. We have so many kids in the program now and I’m still going to help coach through the summer, so they’ll be ready in the fall. I’ve coached every game (spring, summer, fall) like it’s the state finals because it’s important in the development of kids. And people don’t always understand that.
“The program here at Silo is still in good shape and it’s going to be good for years to come.”