Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wristen: Douglas’ off-the-field savvy fuels on-the-field optimism

August 16, 2007

Lansing High baseball fans will have to wait until next spring to find out what new head coach Harley Douglas and his team can do on the field.

Fans got a sneak peek at Douglas' off-the-field skills last week, however, and that should be a cause for optimism.

In case you missed the article, recent LHS graduate Tylor McNeill landed a spot on the roster at Washburn University last week. While speaking about the opportunity, McNeill made it clear who made that happen.

"Coach Douglas : I owe everything to him," McNeill said. "He came in one day after practice and took charge and said, 'Where do you want to go?'"

McNeill wanted the opportunity to play at a higher level, and Washburn - Douglas' alma mater - is an NCAA Division II school. After watching McNeill play a couple games this summer with the American Legion's Lansing Cavalry, Douglas placed a call to his former college coach and landed McNeill a tryout. A few weeks later the deal was done.

Douglas' ability to spot talent and help a player out isn't surprising when you consider he took his team at St. Marys High School to four state tournament appearances in four years and brought home three trophies with a third-place finish and two runner-up finishes. Plus, he has sent a handful of players to the college ranks already, so he understands what college coaches are looking for in a player.

Douglas' assistance with McNeill stands out, however, when you consider why the new coach agreed to work with the Cavalry this summer in the first place. Douglas wanted an opportunity to examine the players returning to LHS next year and find out exactly what sort of talent he has returning to the program next year.

"(This summer) was huge as far as having the opportunity to get in here and work with these kids, see who they are and how they function," Douglas said. "I think it was huge just to work with them, for them to see my style, for me to see their style and for us to see what steps we need to take to get to that next level."

Douglas would love to have McNeill back for another year, but that's not possible. Even so, Douglas chose to work with him anyway and invest in his future. That gesture didn't fall on blind eyes to McNeill, his parents or other baseball parents. McNeill also emphasized that Douglas' commitment to Lansing baseball players would bode well for LHS baseball in the future.

"He really cares about his team, and I was on that team, so he was going to do whatever he could to help me," McNeill said. "He's going to do great things at Lansing just because of who he is."

Douglas showed he was willing to go to bat for Lansing baseball players this summer by working to help McNeill find a suitable college baseball program, and he committed to his returning players by making the 80-mile drive from St. Marys to Lansing to help out with the Cavalry this summer.

At just 29 years old and with four years of head-coaching experience, Douglas still is a young player in the coaching game, but his success at St. Marys is proof that he can succeed on the field. His early work at Lansing - including his eagerness to help McNeill fulfill his dreams of playing college baseball - is proof that he already was a wise hire by LHS.

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