MANILA -- Toby Doke was hired as the Manila baseball coach and alternative GED teacher on Jan. 13. He graduated from Williams Baptist College in December with a degree in physical education and health. This is his first job as a coach. But he is no stranger to the game of baseball.
During his four years at Williams, Doke played baseball. He was selected as an all-conference player in 2001, his junior year. He was also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and made the Dean's List during the fall semester of 2002. He also played baseball at Trumann High School where he graduated in 1998. He was selected as an all-state player in high school.
Doke calls his job a "blessing" explaining that he was looking through the help wanted ads in a newspaper. He came across an ad in which a small school was seeking a baseball coach. He called the contact, Junior High Principal Diane Wagner, who said she wanted to give him an interview. The Manila School Board voted to hire him.
Doke has not seen his team in action yet. But he has gotten a "feel" for their athletic ability by watching them play basketball, he said. He has also met with them to discuss what he expects from his team.
"We're going to be a young team but we will have some talent to build from," Doke said. "I expect them to come to work. We're going to do things right. We're not going to accept it any other way. But we're going to have fun in the process."
The team will consist of several freshmen, sophomores and juniors, Doke said. The team will have two seniors, John Hicks and Justin Kirk.
"Even though we're young, we're looking for success," Doke said. "But I realize with youth we'll lose a few ballgames."
Two dates that stick out in Doke's mind are April 1 and April 17. That is when the Manila Lions baseball team will face the Trumann Wildcats which is coached by his former coach, Jim Montgomery. It doesn't help that Trumann has built a reputation for winning ballgames having gone to state for the past several years.
"Trumann, traditionally, is known to have good baseball programs," Doke said. "That is somewhere we want to take the Manila program. It will be a good challenge we're looking forward to."
Doke will be assisted by John Deaton in his baseball coaching duties.
During the fall, Doke will be assisting the Manila basketball program in some capacity. He is no stranger to basketball either. He was selected as an all-district player his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school.
"I would like to thank Athletic Director Anthony Brewington, principals Diane Wagner and Happy Grayson, Superintendent Charlotte Wagner and the school board for giving me the opportunity for this job," Doke said.
Doke is married to Kelly, his wife of 15 months. The couple is expecting a child on Aug. 3. The couple resides in Paragould, Kelly's hometown. She is a full-time student at Black River Technical College where she is seeking a degree in radiology.
"God has blessed me with a lovely wife," Doke said.