The College of Wooster assistant baseball coach jumped right back into the game when the Wayne County American Legion was looking for a coach for its Senior Legion team. As soon as the Scots season ended, Craddock was up and running with the Mustards.
“I love it,” said the Rittman native, who also played for The College of Wooster and was head coach at Denison University for eight seasons (2000-2007) and left as the winningest coach in school history. “It’s a fun thing to do. Summertime is a lot different than the college season. It’s a little more relaxed, but it’s still a lot of fun.”
The key in Craddock’s mind is still the same – teaching the game.
“That is the goal,” Craddock agreed. “My goal is to teach them as much baseball as I can in a short period of time and send them back to their high school or college programs as more informed baseball players than when I got them. At least, I hope that is the end result and I hope we win some games. I’m not interested in losing, but I understand it happens. No one goes undefeated.”
That’s especially the case during the summer when prior commitments – as well as Mother Nature’s monsoon season in northeast Ohio this spring - can get in the way.
“We’ve got 10 games in (the Mustards were 6-4),” he said. “We had one rained out and another rescheduled… (What has helped is) we’re playing at The College of Wooster and I take care of the field. Most of our games have been at home so far. We’ve only had three away.”
Former Legion coach Mark Kraker stepped down from the Mustards’ position earlier this year and approached Scot head coach Tim Pettorini about the opening.
“Mark told coach Pettorini and told him he was not going to do it anymore,” said Craddock. “He was finding out if Brick (Scot assistant Mark Bricker) or I would be interested, and to see if they could still use the field. I talked to the Legion people to get more details and we were able to agree on things. It was kind of a whirlwind. There is never enough time to pick a team and see all the kids because is all happens so fast, but I think we did a good job putting a team together.”
There are 18 players on the roster, which is limited to Wayne County-area players who have either just graduated or will be seniors this coming season. There are 11 different area schools represented on the roster, led by a trio of players from Wooster in seniors-to-be Evan Bahler and Jerod Detweiler, along with Brodie Arnette.
They are joined by senior Eddy Grenert and just graduated Derek Carmichael from Triway, along with 2011 grad’s Logan Hershey and John McLain of Northwestern.
Jordan Gray, a recent graduate of Central Christian, was also selected, as was senior Ryan Hatala of Chippewa.
Incoming seniors Lance Horner and Dylan Litman of Rittman made the team, along with 2012 class member Blake Miller and recent grad Tyler Harter of Waynedale. Jake Ketler, a senior at Tuslaw, made the squad, as did Cory Merriman and recent grad Jake Zeek of Dalton.
Travis Infield of Orrville and Brenden Taylor of Rittman (Akron Hoban High School) are two recent grads that round out the team.
“It’s a good mix. The county is well represented,” said Craddock.
The team is pitching strong, which has been a plus in the early going and what Craddock hopes will be a positive force as the season goes on.
“We have a lot of guys … we’ve had six different guys start,” said Craddock. “Travis started the first game. John McLain has started and Lance Horner has started a couple. Jordan Gray, Brodie and Evan have started one, and Ryan Hatala and Logan Hershey. … It’s family vacation month, so we haven’t had all 18 at any game. We just played a doubleheader with 12 guys.
“The positive part of that is everyone gets a chance to play. The negative is that we have less flexibility … but when we have the whole team there, we will be able to mix and match better than we’re able to do right now.”
Craddock has liked what he’s seen from the team in the early going.
“We’re trying to learn a little more about the team and win as many games as we can,” he said. “They are learning to play at a higher level. We’re turning more double plays and making them look easy vs. what I saw in high-school ball in the county in the limited number of games I saw this spring. I’d like to win more and strike out a few less times and leave fewer runners on base, but we’re getting there. Every game and practice, we’re getting better. By the end of the year, we’ll be a better team than we are right now and I’m not convinced most teams can say the same thing. They don’t work at it as hard as we do.
“These guys have done a fantastic job of listening, which is not always the case in summer baseball. I give them a ton of credit. They listen, pay attention and try their hardest to do what we ask. We’re teaching skills we teach at the college and some of them are not capable of doing it yet. They not capable – yet. They will be. It just takes a little time.”
Craddock praised his staff for their contributions as well, which consists of former or current Scots. Recently graduated Jeff McDowell, who pitched for the Scots this spring; senior-to-be catcher/DH Mike DeBoard and locals Zac Mathie (West Holmes) and Craig Day (Waynedale), who both just wrapped up their freshmen year at Wooster, are on the coaching staff.
“They are a huge help,” said Craddock. “It’s good to have quality help.”
The Legion team’s season will wrap up in the second week of July when the team goes into the district tournament.
Published: June 15, 2011