Ryan Wilcoxen left his job as athletics director for Eastern Greene and became a health teacher at Brown County Junior High because he wanted more time with his growing family.
Yet, a baseball player all his life, he could not pass up the opportunity when the high school coaching job came open in February.
Coaching is Wilcoxen’s passion. He thrives on teaching the players not just the game but life lessons as well.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the game of baseball,” he said. “I’m here because of the coaches that I had, and I want to relay that same passion, those same life lessons, onto these kids.”
“Baseball is such a game of failure,” he said. “You can be a .300 hitter at the big-league level — go three for 10—- and if you average that throughout your career, you’re going to be in the hall of fame. But that’s a failure rate of 70 percent.
“If you’re able to battle through that adversity and battle through that failure, I think it’s going to set you up even more for positive things just in your everyday life,” he said.
“You can’t just put your head down and quit. You’ve got to keep your head up and keep moving.”
The coach emphasizes to his players that behavior off the field — even when no one else is there to see — is just as important as what happens on the field, senior Noah Ryan said.
“I think he really wants us to grow, not only as players and students, but he wants us to grow as young men,” Ryan said.
Wilcoxen said that his message to the team this year is that succeed or fail, they are in it together.
“The best teams that I’ve been a part of — the championship-caliber teams — they were very cohesive groups, they stuck together, they pulled for one another,” he said.
The coaching staff have emphasized that every time the players put their jersey on, they are representing themselves, their team and their school, Wilcoxen said.
“It’s a privilege to come out here every day, and I don’t want them to take that for granted,” he said. “We’ve got to remain positive and pulling for one another, no matter what the situation is.”
So far, the players have been getting the message, Wilcoxen said. Still, they have a lot of young players, many of whom haven’t played varsity before.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “What I’m looking for is just the growth and development of this team, and improving our culture into the team concept of playing for one another and bonding on and off the field.
Wilcoxen’s coaching staff set the example, he said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff. They’re here day-in, day-out, and just as we talk about the team being a cohesive unit, I think that’s really important for our coaching staff as well,” he said.
Wilcoxen said he has also been impressed by the leadership from older players, particularly Ryan.
“He’s really grabbing it by the horns and taking ownership and taking pride in being a leader,” Wilcoxen said.
Senior Jacob Partyka said he feels like they are building a foundation the younger generations of players can build on. Even among the seniors, Wilcoxen has already inspired strong loyalty from his players.
“I wish, with all that I have, that I was a freshman, so I could have him as my coach,” senior Logan Ceeckler said. “He just knows so much about the game itself, and it’s a lot to look up to.”
While Wilcoxen also played some basketball in high school — and enjoys competition in general — baseball is his passion.
“I love the game, it’s my passion, and I love teaching the game,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids and getting them to compete.
“We want to be playing our best baseball come May, around sectional time,” he said.
With only three seniors on the team, Wilcoxen is looking forward to seeing growth for years to come.
“So far in this young season, I’ve really enjoyed these kids. I’ve been impressed with their buy-in of the new coaching staff — because that can sometimes be very difficult — and I’m just very impressed with what they’ve been able to do each day in practice.”
Freshmen: Jack Johnson, Colby Marker, Kaleb Popp, Eli Snider, Isaac Weddle
Sophomores: Dylan Carney, Brandon Leslie, JT Parry, Jake Riehl, Bryce Walker, John Wayne Zeigler
Juniors: Alex Carney, Chris Leslie, Tristan Richards, Grant Suding
Seniors: Logan Ceeckler, Jacob Partyka, Noah Ryan
Freshmen: Cayden Edds, Jack Johnson, Colby Marker, Ben Neal, Cooper Olmsted, Kaleb Popp, Eli Snider, Jordan Watson, Isaac Weddle, Hunter Weissenberger
Sophomores: Dylan Carney, Trey Gault, Brandon Leslie, Dale Phelps
Junior: Peter Steinke