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Coach built St. Paul baseball into consistent winner, including two playoff appearances in past three seasons

PHIL HAWKINS - Former St. Paul baseball head coach Julio Vela stepped down from the program following the spring season, ending a tenure that included two state playoff appearances, the 2016 league title and 68 wins over a seven-year period.
Coming off a historic three-season span that saw the St. Paul baseball team make the playoffs twice, Bucks head coach Julio Vela is stepping down from his post.

The program had been revived by coach Jessie Turk in 2009, but Vela took over coaching summer ball after the team finished with just eight players and played in just 11 games in 2011.

After playing a junior varsity schedule in 2012, Vela led the Bucks to a 10-15 varsity record in 2013.

Over the following three seasons, Vela built the squad into a consistent winner, with St. Paul breaking through with a league title and the school's first playoff appearance in 28 years in 2016.

The team went 11-10 in 2017 and narrowly missed out on a second straight playoff berth after losing a play-in game to Western Mennonite, but bounced back this past spring with a 15-3 record and a second-place finish in 2A/1A Special District 2. The No. 9 Bucks then fell 11-10 to Monroe in the first round of the OSAA playoffs.

"We're disappointed because we lose in the playoffs early, that's progress," Vela said. "When we're disappointed we don't make the playoffs, that's progress. The raised expectation is a great thing."

Vela finished with a 68-64 record in six seasons of varsity competition, but the recent graduating class left St. Paul with a very respectable 53-29 regular season record.

More than anything, though, Vela will remember the relationships he's created, which have already proven to have lasting power.

"I think for many of these guys, I'll be coach forever and in my mind, I'll be interested in what these young men are doing forever," Vela said.

For the second time in his tenure, Vela was able to have enough kids out in the spring to field a junior varsity team and with stong junior and senior classes returning, the Bucks are well-positioned to remain competitive.

Athletic director Tony Smith agreed, noting the position won't be posted until school reconvenes in the fall.

"I think the turnout is real good and the program is in real good shape," Smith said.

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