LIBERTY, Mo. — Liberty North defeated Oak Park in the District Semifinals Thursday 2-0, and the Eagles are quite determined this season to not only repeat as state champions but for a coach who fought to be with them every step of the way.
For Liberty North, the motto “Ready for Battle” is everywhere. In the dug out, on the fence, on the shirt and in the chant.
But throughout the last few seasons, “RFB” has meant much more.
“He wanted to be out here so dang bad, he really did, he kept up with the games, he watched them on game changer. Always asking about the kids, that is him to a tee,” said Liberty North head coach Ryan Stegall.
“Him” is Coach Rob James, a beloved assistant for the Eagles.
“I learned everything, not even just about baseball but more about life,” senior infielderTy Wisdom said. “He enjoyed life every single day and every day we’re out on the baseball field is a gift. And he made sure of that.”
“He set the standard for everyone out how to their life, how to go about their day, he was just a great man to look up to,” senior pitcher Tate McGuire said.
James showed plenty of courage and that was because he was battling cancer. He was able to be with the team last season but this season had been a struggle. They’d visit him in the hospital after many games. Two weeks ago Coach James lost his battle.
“It was terrible, he meant so much to me personally, he’s made me a better person, anybody he comes in contact with, he’s makes better,” Stegall said.
“It was just super sad to see, but I know that he’s going to leave a lasting impact on Liberty North and the Liberty community,” Wisdom said.
Having to respond the same day after learning of Coach James’ passing, the Eagles went on to win a game that night and there’s been support from other teams, former players in the area, even from opposing schools and now “RFB” is with them every game.
“Everything we got is RFB and it’s because he meant so much to us, he battled through with us last year and there’s just nothing bigger than getting it done for him,” Stegall said.
Each practice, each rep, each game mattering more, wearing their RFB jersey.
“It’s all embedded in the words, ready for battle, it’s just everything he wanted us to be like in life and kind of something to play for,” McGuire said.
The Eagles don’t intend to wear a different jersey this postseason and intend on winning for the coach they loved the most.
“Us wearing those jerseys just means the world to us as a program. We’re going to go out and take care of business all because of him.”