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Plant City finds coach among faculty


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2001

TAMPA -- Robert Harris was interviewing for a social studies position at Plant City in August.

TAMPA -- Robert Harris was interviewing for a social studies position at Plant City in August.

But the longer he talked with principal Charles Raburn, the more impressed Raburn grew -- with Harris' baseball background.

Only Plant City didn't have a baseball opening. Nor did the principal anticipate one.

"It was one of those things," Raburn said. "Someone comes in, you look at the resume and you say, "Wow. Pretty good stuff here."'

Harris was hired to teach social studies. Ten months later, he landed the baseball job, too.

Harris, a former college player who has coached at the high school and collegiate levels, last week was named to replace Alan Kicklighter.

Kicklighter resigned in May following the most successful of his four seasons at Plant City. Last year, the Raiders went 11-16 and made their first regional tournament appearance in 33 seasons.

Kicklighter wanted to spend more time at home, where his wife is pregnant with the couple's second child, Raburn said. Kicklighter will teach physical education at Eisenhower Middle School.

"It gets to the point where you have other priorities," Raburn said. "That's where Alan had gotten."

After a three-week search, Harris' experience, along with his successful first year as a teacher, convinced Raburn he was the man for the job.

"He had proven himself ahead of time before that position even became available," the principal said.

Harris, who is moving his family to Plant City, could not be reached for comment.

He played one year at Odessa (Texas) College and another at Polk Community College before earning a scholarship to California State-Dominguez Hills, a Division II school in Carson, Calif.

His coaching background includes stints as an assistant at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Cal State-Dominguez Hills and Wilton (Conn.) High. He also coached the freshman team at Fox Lane High in Bedford, N.Y.

Harris makes $30,000 a year as a teacher.

He will receive another $1,716 as baseball coach.

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