CONWAY, Ark. — "There's a lot of things you can call this," Noel Boucher says about how the high school baseball season ended. "You can call it disappointing; you can call it heartbreaking, but you know what, this is life."
Boucher has been at Conway since 1982, and was named the first head baseball coach of the Wampus Cats just two years later.
2020 was his final season at the helm.
"This is the way things are," he said. "Sometimes you make all these plans, and they don't go the way you want them to."
Boucher had a vision of how his final year in the Conway dugout would go.
"My plan was I was going to see all the coaches I had come into contact with over the years and shake their hand and say 'thank you'," said Boucher. "Tell them, 'You know we've competed, we've had fun, you've been a gentleman and it's been great.' I really wanted that."
His plan definitely didn't include the season being cut short due to a global pandemic.
"I've been doing this for 38 years," he said, "and I've never seen anything like this, ever."
But Boucher learned a long time ago that life isn't just about wins and losses.
"My father and I always talked," he said, "and his big thing was you always leave it better than you found it. And I feel good about that."
Boucher may not be on the sideline next season, but he doesn't plan on going too far.
"I'm going to be the ultimate fan. I'm going to go to football games, basketball games, I'm going to games that are in someplace other than Conway!" he said with a laugh. "I might even travel a little bit. My wife and I have got things on the plate. We've got grand kids and things that are important to us and we're going to have fun."
Boucher will walk away after guiding the Wampus Cats program to more than 700 victories and three state championships. And those will always hold a special place in his heart. But his best memories are far more personal.
"When a guy graduates, he goes off to college, you might not see him for five, six, ten years and then he comes back to the ballpark with his wife and his first child," said Boucher. "And he goes, 'hey, I wanted to come by, show you that I'm not a deadbeat, that I actually made it. Here it is, this is my family.' Those are special times."