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Keck returning to Barbs baseball

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 7:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 8:30 a.m. CDT
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Daily Chronicle File Photo DeKalb head coach Justin Keck (center) talks with his players after Brian Sisler and Jake Gordon collided during the first inning of the IHSA Class 3A State Semifinal Game against Marian Central in Joliet, Ill., on Friday June 11, 2010.
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Daily Chronicle File Photo DeKalb coach Justin Keck lines up with his team awaiting their second place medals at the end of the IHSA Class 3A championship on Saturday June 12, 2010 in Joliet, Ill.
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(Beck Diefenbach)
Daily Chronicle File Photo DeKalb's Frank Petras (17) is congratulated by head coach Justin Keck as he rounds third base after hitting a home run during the third inning of the game against Sycamore at Sycamore Community Park in Sycamore, Ill., on Wednesday April 8, 2009.

It didn't take long for Justin Keck to start feeling the itch.

Soon after he stepped down in 2010 as baseball coach for DeKalb, he found himself eyeing a return to the diamond.

Four years later, he jumped at his chance.

The DeKalb school board on Tuesday approved the hire of Keck as the successor to Jake Howells, who stepped down last month to move to Minnesota with his fiancée.

"It's one of those things you step away from something you enjoy to do for the right reasons, but the last couple years gave me the itch to get back into it," Keck said. "It came about not shortly after I resigned. But now was the golden opportunity because I new the position was open and it was a chance to get back in. So I took a more serious look at it and if my family would support me if it was something I wanted to get back into."

So with the blessing of his wife and four children, Keck is back in charge of the Barbs. His last game was the Class 3A state championship game in 2010, an 11-1 loss to Chatham Glenwood. His first stint lasted five years, the first two of which saw 13 total wins before a 27-11 showing and state finals trip in his final season.

Keck said the loss had little effect on his wanting to come back, saying it had more to do with his love of coaching and teaching players not only about the game but life lessons as well.

"Was it a tough final game? Yeah, it was a tough final game," Keck said. "But it was a phenomenal year. I saw boys become young men in those four years together. Watching them change into the young men they became, that's why you get into it. Wins and losses come and go, and that excitement drives all of us."

The team went 69-65-1 under Howells in the four years since Keck and the Barbs reached the state championship game.

"I'm not coming back with any guarantees to get back to that point," Keck said. "We can hope and we can try and duplicate it, but that's a special team. But we'll see what this team has and what teams in the future have and if we can't duplicate that."

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