Jeff Sikes

Jeff Sikes

He ranks 10th on the all-time winningest coaches list and has the third most wins among active coaches in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). But there are things that are most important than winning to Warner University Baseball Head Coach, Jeff Sikes.

“Warner is an Evangelical Christian university,” said Sikes. “Our top priority is to do everything we possibly can to glorify Jesus Christ. We share this with every player we recruit to the university. They don’t necessarily have to be a Christian to come to Warner but by the time they leave we hope they have they’ve come to know Christ and have been inspired to a closer walk with him.”

A 1978 graduate of Lake Wales High School, Sikes excelled on both the gridiron and the diamond. He loved both sports, but ultimately had more college opportunities through baseball. Recruited and signed by Mississippi State, he realized he needed to be closer to home after the first semester.

“I wasn’t ready for it emotionally,” he said. “I was very homesick.”

Two years of junior college baseball at what is now South Florida State College put him back on track.

“It was a lot of fun playing with guys you have played against in high school, or had at least of heard of before,” he said. “I made many great relationships there that still exist today.”
After having multiple opportunities to play Division I Baseball out of high school, he only had one school show interest after Junior College, the University of Kentucky. A special connection with Head Coach Keith Madison was a key factor. Madison had been Sikes’ head coach during his junior year at Lake Wales and was instrumental in his choosing Mississippi State – but he has moved on to be a Graduate Assistant for the Bulldogs before Sikes’ senior year.

“But he left for the head job at Kentucky before I arrived there,” Sikes said.

At Lexington, Sikes blossomed.

“Everything came together at UK,” he said. “I played much better, made great relationships with folks I call my Kentucky Family, and fell in love with everything about the place.”
Returning home after graduation, Sikes was still drawn to the diamond. His efforts while working with the Doyle Baseball School drew the attention of a friend who was coaching at Warner, then Warner Southern College.

“He had taken a job with the Postal Service in Ohio,” said Sikes. “He felt I would be a good fit with the guys they had there and called me to ask if I would be interested in taking over. I was not interested at all.”

But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“Ultimately, he asked if I would pray about it. I said I would, figuring that would at least get him off the phone,” he said. “I didn’t want to lie so I did pray about it and eventually feeling the Lord had impressed it upon my heart I agreed to take the position one week before the 1984 season began.”

With a total of 14 players – and a 17-game schedule – Sikes went to work.

“Three of the guys were older than me, but we ended up winning Warner’s first ever conference championship in baseball, and I had the most fun I ever had on a baseball field,” he said. “All the guys were great. Some of my best friends in the world today were on that first team. Two of them were in my wedding.”

As schedules and results improved the program rose from participating in the Florida Christian College Conference to membership in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), making it to the World Series in 1992. The next year Warner joined what is now the Sun Conference in the even more competitive NAIA.

Since the move to the NAIA, Warner has become one of the most consistently competitive programs in the nation. The decade of the 2000s was a pinnacle time for Warner as they won 397 games in 10 years and were ranked in the NAIA Top 25 for all but 6 weeks in the entire decade.

“Warner and the NAIA have been perfect fits for me,” he said. “The NAIA allows for more one on one contact with players than other governing bodies, and with Warner being such a strong Christian University we are not only allowed to share our faith in Christ with our players, but we are also encouraged to do so. We hope to lead guys who are already Christians to grow a stronger, more effective faith in Jesus, and we strive to help guys who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.”

“That’s the way it’s always been with Warner Baseball and it’s the main thing that keeps me here. It fuels me. The experiences I’ve had with all the young men I’ve encountered at Warner, both Coaches and Players alike have been such an incredible blessing to me wife and children. I can’t adequately describe the joy that has come our way. God bless Warner University.”