It took only a few days for Jeremy Shope to realize he had to ask for his job back, but there were a few more anxious days before he got it.
Ten days after being hired as the baseball coach at Boyle County, Shope was reinstated at Mercer after a change of heart led him to ask the Mercer board of education to rescind his resignation. The board voted unanimously at its meeting Thursday in Harrodsburg to do just that after meeting with him for about 10 minutes in executive session.
Shope said that once he had time to reflect he realized staying at Mercer was the right move for him and his family.
“I just started having a lot of reservations,” Shope said. “I’m proud of what I built at Mercer, but most importantly, I’ve got two daughters and a family I have to worry about, too.”
Shope said he knows his 180-degree turn was an awkward move.
“I knew it would be messy, but I think it’ll work out fine,” he said.
And he said parents and others at Mercer have been very receptive to taking him back.
“People are welcoming me back with open arms,” he said. “Even when I left, it’s amazing the amount of phone calls and text messages and emails I got. They all said, ‘I hate to lose you, but we understand you have to do what’s best for your family.’ Now that I’m coming back, I’ve gotten that same type of response, but they’re all saying, ‘See, we told you you never should have left,’” he said with a laugh.
Shope, who will also return to his position as a special education teacher at King Middle School, said he hasn’t heard any opposition to his return.
“I’ve never sensed any of that,” he said. “It’s good, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m back. I’m just surrounded by good people here in Mercer County that I’ve got a lot of friendships and relationships with.”
Several parents of baseball players attended Thursday’s school board meeting, and one of them spoke up in support of Shope. Michael Heath, whose son Seth will be a senior in the coming school year, said he understood Shope’s decision to go to Boyle and his decision to try to come back.
“My feeling is that he made a decision just like any of us would,” Heath said. “I thought that when he got the chance to think about it, he thought, ‘Well, I’m happier at Mercer than I would be there.’ I thought he rushed into a decision, and after he thought about it, he thought, ‘I’d rather be here.’”
Heath’s oldest son, Evan, also played for Shope, and Shope personally asked his youngest son, Travis, to be a manager after he tried out unsuccessfully for the King Middle School team.
“He appreciated that more than if he had made the team,” Heath said. Shope said he had been on the go ever since Mercer’s season ended in the championship game of the state tournament last month, and he said he finally had some time to reflect during a weekend trip with some friends from college.
“I had not been able to get away and just relax after the state tournament. It was just go, go, go, and Boyle had been talking to me, and I’d just not had a chance to get away,” he said. “I was able to get away from home for a while, and it just started hitting me there. I tried to base (the decision to go to Boyle) strictly on business, and it wasn’t just business.”
Shope said his decision to return to Mercer was based largely on what he thought was best for his family, including his daughters who are 12 and 9 years old. He said last week that they were enthusiastic about the move to Boyle, but he said Thursday that he discovered while talking to his family last weekend that that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Mercer held its season-ending banquet Monday, and Shope made no mention of his departure or of Boyle there. He said he already knew by then that he wanted to try to return to Mercer, but he didn’t want to bring it up while the process was still ongoing.
He said he believes the Mercer players understand his moves.
“Kids are understanding, and they know sometimes adults have to make tough decisions and they have to make family decisions,” he said.
Shope said Boyle officials, including two of his friends, Boyle principal Will Begley and athletic director Chris LeMonds, also understood.
“They’re awesome guys, and they did what they’re supposed to do to try to fill their baseball job. They’ve been wonderful,” he said.
“It’s all worked out fine, and this will all be old news before long,” he said.
Boyle replaced Shope by hiring former Centre College assistant coach Kyle Wynn as its coach on Wednesday.
Mercer won its first 12th Region title this season and went deeper into the postseason than any area team before its run ended with a loss to Central Hardin in the state finals. Shope is 236-133 in 12 seasons at Mercer.
“Each year I’ve seen coach Shope get a little better, and his best coaching job was this past year,” Heath said.
Heath said he believes Shope has the support of the team’s parents, but he also said he wants to see Shope do the things at Mercer that he said last week he was going to do at Boyle, such as working with the middle school players in the fall.
“Nobody has really said they didn’t want him to come back, but people want him back doing what he said he was going to do at Boyle,” he said.