Jack Spencer: A football guy who became a baseball lifer

He won nearly 600 games, 2 state titles in his career

Former area baseball coach Jack Spencer, right, with his son, Blake, shown in a 2017 photo. Jack Spencer, who won nearly 600 high school games between 1971-2004 while coach at Arlington Country Day, Englewood, Paxon and Sandalwood, died on Friday. (Photo courtesy Blake Spencer)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Spencer, a longtime high school baseball coach in the area who spent time at four local programs and won a pair of state titles, died on Friday following complications from cancer. 

Spencer was 72. 

"The family, me, my mom, my sister, everyone in this family, period, is in a really good state because of his condition," said Spencer's son, Blake. "He was very vocal about his wishes, what he wanted, how he felt. It's a sad day, but a good day because he's not in pain. 

"I'm sure there are some tough roads ahead with stuff like this, but ultimately, I said it last night to my family and friends, we couldn't be more thankful for the scenario. He wasn't suffering. It [his passing] wasn't something that was dragged out or delayed."

Spencer never intended to be a baseball coach, Blake said. 

No. He wanted to be involved with football. Spencer played at Ferris State and was one of the captains on the 1968 team that went unbeaten. That team was enshrined into the school's hall of fame in 2017.

The only problem with Spencer's football mindset is that is that when he moved to Florida in 1971, the only thing open were baseball positions. Spencer arrived at Sandalwood in 1971, the year the school opened, and stayed there until leaving for a position at Englewood six years later. Spencer would stay with the Rams until the early 1990s before going to Paxon. 

While Spencer won the bulk of nearly 600 games at Gateway Conference programs, his most successful time came at Arlington Country Day. 

He won back-to-back state championships at ACD in 2000-01. If not for health problems, which ended his time at ACD on two occasions, Spencer would have likely gone well into 600-win territory. Instead, he retired from coaching for good in 2004, six years after he was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. 

For a man who had football vision early in his career, Spencer wound up as one of the most successful baseball coaches in area history. 

John Brown (University Christian), John Gwynes (White), Howard May (Parker), Ken Roland (Fernandina Beach), Don Suriano (Bolles, Fleming Island, Ridgeview) and Bob West (Bishop Kenny), are among the area baseball coaching heavyweights with multi-decade coaching careers.

Since 1950, Spencer, along with Billy Bennett (Palatka), Mike Boswell (Bolles, Englewood), Brown, Storm Davis (Bolles), Mac Mackiewitz (Providence), Gil Morales (Eagle's View, Trinity Christian) and Suriano are the only area baseball coaches to win multiple state championships with local programs. 

In Spencer's post-baseball coaching career, he battled health problems, including a return of prostate cancer. Blake said that despite his father's health issues, he remained involved in the lives of his two children and three grandchildren. 

He was also a big help for Blake, who races in the World of Outlaws series, in and around the pits on raceday. 

Spencer is survived by his wife, Ruthie, his son, Blake, daughter, Kerry, and three grandchildren. 

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