Coach Karr speaks to the team

Phil Karr, who has been the Salem baseball head coach the past 10 years, has resigned his baseball coaching duties. The Salem Board of Education accepted the resignation during last week’s regular meeting.

Tony Edwards, a Salem graduate who served as Karr’s assistant coach all 10 seasons, has been promoted as the Tiger baseball head coach.

Karr also serves as the Salem athletic director as well as softball head coach. Also a former SHS graduate, Karr plans to retire after 28 years of working in the school district following the 2021-22 school year.

Karr wanted to move on from baseball a year early to give Edwards a fresh start with an anticipated large group of youngsters coming into the program, as well as to concentrate on the transition the Lady Tiger softball team is making this coming school year. Salem will play its final fall softball campaign in 2021 and begins playing in the spring during 2022.

“No. 1, I know Tony Edwards will do a great job as head coach,” Karr said. “We have a freshman class coming in with numerous baseball players, and I felt if Coach Edwards used a little different philosophy than mine, rather than teach them my philosophy for just one year, we do it now. It was time.

“I definitely love baseball. But with softball (this coming school year) I’ll be coaching it in the fall and spring. Our softball numbers are really low, and I want to do what I can to get softball to survive in Salem and transition it to the spring.”

Karr was an assistant coach for 16 years under longtime Salem baseball head coach Don Smith. When Smith retired 10 years ago, Karr took over as head coach. Under Karr the Tigers captured SCA championships in 2012 and 2017 and won a district tournament title in 2016. He has also served as Salem AD since 2013.

This past season Karr took a young, fourth-seeded Tiger squad to the Class 4 District 9 Tournament championship game, where it fell to St. Clair 3-2 in walk-off fashion. Ironically, St. Clair was coached by one of Karr’s former assistant coaches, Salem graduate Mitch Lundy.

After a slow start the Tigers finished strong and ended with an 11-15 record this past spring. Edwards will take over a squad that returns six varsity starters.

“There is an ending to everything,” Karr said. “I also have a grandson who is not even one year old yet. I’m perfectly fine spending more time with him; teaching him how to play baseball.”

Edwards is a 1995 Salem graduate, who played both baseball and football for the Tigers. His senior season he was an All-SCA shortstop for Salem.

While student teaching at Salem in 2002, Edwards was a volunteer assistant coach for Smith. He was officially added to the Tiger baseball coaching staff in 2003 and has been on the staff since.

“I’m very excited,” said Edwards who has been the JV head coach the past several years. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach with Don Smith and Phil Karr. The little things I’ve picked up from them over the years has helped me a great deal. And Phil is one of my best friends. I thought this was the right time; the right opportunity.

“I’ve worked with this (incoming) freshman group since they were eight years old with the Midwest Titans youth travel team. So I’ve grown to know that group. And the sophomores this year, I helped coach them on their traveling team, too. With those sophomores and six or seven freshmen coming in, this was as good an opportunity as any for me. I know the kids and their parents well.”

With a veteran team back and the youngsters coming up, Edwards is hoping for a nice blend of youth and experience for 2022.

“I would like to come up with a nice mix next year,” he said. “We will be a senior-dominated team next year. We have (senior) Garrett Connell as a shortstop and our pitching ace next year with (senior) Korben Barred and (sophomore) catcher and pitcher Haiden Sanders, so we have a lot of varsity (pitching) innings coming back to lead the way.

“The main thing I want to produce is that positive attitude and keep the game fun. That’s my goal for next year.”

Edwards’ assistant coach next spring will be holdover assistant Jake Reardon.

Salem will have just a two-man baseball coaching staff in 2022, due to the fact there will be softball both in the fall and spring. Edwards said the plan is to return to a three-man baseball coaching staff the following year.

“Since we started having three coaches in 2002 we’ve won seven SCA championships and two district championships,” Edwards said. “It really helps to have that third coach, and we’ll have a second assistant again for the 2023 season.”