The Antigo Red Robins baseball program has enjoyed a long stretch of success, but will now move forward with a new varsity head coach.
Scott Farmer, who has served two stints as the Robins’ head man, highlighted by winning the school’s only state championship in 2019, has stepped down from both the team and the school district.
Farmer confirmed late Tuesday that he has accepted the athletic director position with the New Richmond School District, beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
For Farmer, it’s the culmination of a career in education and athletics and it comes at a perfect time for him, as the pieces simply fell in place.
“Something I’ve always wanted to do is be an athletic director,” Farmer said. “The opportunity came about and it was just too good to pass up. As hard as it is to leave, I enjoyed my time working here, I loved teaching at all three levels, but when this job opened up it was almost too good to be true.”
On a family level, the timing worked out well, with both of his sons now graduated and playing or preparing to compete in collegiate sports, with Wade on the UW-Whitewater baseball roster, and Brett preparing to swim for UW-Eau Claire.
“We’ve been talking about this, but the search took us farther than what we thought,” Farmer noted. “We will be close to Brett, so it will be fun to watch him swim.”
Farmer leaves a lasting legacy on Antigo baseball, with his most recent tenure beginning with his hiring following the 2015 season, and running through last season’s WIAA Division Two state title.
Farmer’s won-loss record during that stint was an impressive 85-18, good for a winning percentage of .825. He led the Robins to three straight Great Northern Conference championships, with that streak ironically ending in 2019, the year in which his team capped off the year with a state title.
He was then named the National Federation of High Schools Wisconsin Coach of the Year.
Farmer’s conference mark was equally impressive at 44-4.
He also served as head coach from 1999-2005, stepping down when a family member became ill. He later returned to serve as an assistant coach under both Bill Greening and Dan Bastle, moving back to the helm when the job opened up again in 2015.
All-in-all, Farmer has spent 24 years in the Antigo school district, serving in various capacities. He worked at West Elementary School for 15 of those years, served in both the High School and Middle School’s physical education departments for six years and spent another three serving as an elementary principal.
His challenge in New Richmond, a district just 50 miles east of the Twin Cities, will be maintaining what has become a perennial sports power.
In fact, during this past school year, the Tigers claimed Middle Border Conference championships in football, boys basketball, boys soccer, boys cross country and girls golf. The boys soccer and cross country teams both advanced to the state level.
The girls basketball, girls tennis and boys hockey teams were solid as well, both placing second in the Middle Border. New Richmond and Antigo have been regular opponents in boys hockey, with the Tigers winning a tight 5-4 game in February in Antigo.
The most recent spring season in 2019 saw the baseball team and girls soccer teams win conference championships, with the baseball team advancing to the sectional level, just missing out on a matchup with the eventual champion Red Robins.
“They have been doing what we’ve been doing in Antigo,” Farmer explained. “Hopefully I can continue to march them through it, I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
New Richmond is a town and school district very similar to Antigo in both population and enrollment.
“It was a little eerie when we got over there and took a look around town,” Farmer added.
That similarity will soon change however, as the area continues to grow, with the most recent numbers pushing enrollment above 900 and climbing.
That growth means new challenges for the sports program, which has plans for a move to face tougher competition in the Big Rivers Conference in two years, which includes powerhouse schools from the Eau Claire area.
Another challenge is the unknown, with schools and athletes sidelined due to the COVID-19 crisis. Those limitations kept Farmer from telling his players of his decision in person, instead having to do so via a text message.
“I just told them what an honor it was to work with them and we’ll always be connected because of the last year,” He said. “They need to just keep doing what they’re doing, if the young players stick with it and keep working hard they will be just fine.”
Regardless of the future, he leaves the Antigo baseball program as a whole, in terrific shape.
“I can’t say enough about the coaching staff I’ve been able to work with,” he added. “Plus all the people at the younger levels, John Reetz, Jason Hilger, Scott Walbeck, Chris Knapkavage, guys that have kept things moving, the children involved, kept the enjoyment level up, we’ve still got a lot and we should be pretty strong with the players we have coming up.”
As far as what Farmer takes with him, there are plenty of memories on the diamond, even outside of winning state.
“Just the players I’ve worked with, it’s been a joy,” he said. “I’ve got all sorts of stories, like when I let Mike Van Ooyen pinch-hit when he was injured and he hits a grand slam to win against Rapids, Nate Mantor throwing a no-hitter against Marshfield, last year’s combined no-hitters with Brady Renfro and Eli Fleischman, not to mention getting a chance to coach my son Wade, but 24 years, it’s a lot to leave behind.”
And for the Red Robins it’s a lot to miss, but a lot of great things to remember.