WACO, Texas — As the Valley Mills eagles baseball team walked off Bosqueville last Friday night to win the regional finals, a blur came running down the third-base line.
It wasn't Elandis Taylor, the sophomore who scored the winning run, it was 59-year-old head coach Doug Shanafelt.
The coach, who thought he beat his player home, was one of the first guys to embrace Taylor, giddy with excitement.
"He’s put a lot into us and he just cares so much about the game and so much about us, and he just knew that we could do it," Taylor said.
It was a moment of raw emotion. A true picture of the love this Eagles team has for each other.
A tight knit group, they are coached by Shanafelt who is in his second-stint with the Eagles as a head coach.
He walked away from the team to spend more time with his family in 2005, the same year he led them to a State Tournament.
He returned years later as an assistant coach, and then took over the reigns before the 2022 season began.
“I’ve said many times, it’s good to be the assistant, but it’s better to be the head coach," Shanafelt said.
This team is close as ever, spending time on the field and even at bible study hosted by Shanafelt and his wife on a weekly basis.
"They're just good kids that love baseball and they also love each other," he said. "They're selfless there are a lot of words I can use to describe them, they're incredible kids, my wife wants to adopt every one of them."
When he was approached to take the head coaching job, he wanted to make sure it's what the kids wanted. He asked senior Eli McNair who started as a freshman on the 2019 team.
"I just, I had to know, I had to hear from somebody and I want to know what do you think about me being the head coach here," he asked McNair. "He jerked his head around and he said, ‘that’d be great.’ And I said okay, I know what I need to do for these kids."
What he's done is lead them to their second tournament in the last three that have been hosted.
The Eagles haven't won a State Title since 1992. However, wins don't necessarily mean everything to this team.
Their brotherly love and doing right is what means most to them.
“He just does an amazing job with us, keeps us going, and I just think he’s a great coach," McNair said.
On Wednesday, they'll play New Home High School at Dell Diamond in Round Rock at 4 p.m., chasing the school's fourth state title.
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