LOGAN — Because the new head baseball coach was hired after camps had already started, it was uncertain if there would even be a Logan High School baseball camp this summer.
But Tom Craze, who was hired in mid-June, wanted to at least get a chance to get to know some of the kids he’ll soon be coaching while also getting a glance at some future Chieftains.
“When the opportunity arose that we had some time this summer to still do a camp I really wanted to do it,” Craze told The Logan Daily News. “I think it’s important (in building) a program.
“We have time to do it, so why not?” he added. “We have time where we can still get to our youth and for me to be visible (as new head of the LHS baseball program) out there in our community.”
The community will get the opportunity to get to know its new LHS baseball coach with a “meet and greet” for players and parents this Friday (5 p.m.) in the LHS cafeteria.
Craze, with seven seasons of varsity baseball coaching experience — as well as a trip to the state tournament — under his belt, takes over for Cody Sutton, who resigned effective at the end of the school year to take a teaching job at Athens High School, where he’ll also serve as an assistant baseball coach.
Logan’s new head coach has compiled an impressive 126-55 coaching record in five seasons (2011-2015) at Fredericktown — his alma mater — as well as two seasons (2017-2018) as head coach at Granville. He served as Columbus Bishop Watterson’s pitching coach last spring.
Ironically, Granville — with players Craze had coached the previous two seasons — then knocked Watterson out of the post-season tournament, beating the Eagles 7-4 in a district final back in May.
Fredericktown reached the state Division III final four in 2012 during a stretch in which the Freddies won 23 games for a school-record four-consecutive seasons. He was Division III Central District Coach of the Year in both 2014 and 2015.
He should get a chance to see some of the holdovers from last season’s 8-17 Logan team later this week. Many of them are expected to assist with camp for youth entering first through ninth grades Thursday and Friday at Chieftain Field.
“I’m really excited,” Craze said. “There is so much talent coming back on this team.”
In six seasons under Sutton, the Chiefs had a record of 45-96 (a winning percentage of .319), topping out with a 13-9 slate in 2017, the program’s first winning record in 15 seasons.
It was an improvement from the previous nine seasons, when the LHS baseball program managed just 51 victories in 186 games (.274).
Craze hopes to continue that improvement and take it to another level... but he is well aware it will be a challenge for a program that, for nearly two decades, hasn’t enjoyed much baseball success.
“I look forward to the opportunities and the challenges that are in front of me,” Craze said. “I think Logan’s a special place location-wise and opportunity-wise to continually build the baseball program.
“We’ll come in and really get after it,” he added. “We will work hard and make sure that when we hit the season that we’re fully-prepared and ready to go.”
By coming to the Hocking Hills, Craze will have made the progression from D3 Fredericktown to D2 Granville and Watterson to D1 Logan. But just because Logan is D1 doesn’t mean he plans to change his approach.
“It really doesn’t. We’ll do the same things as I’ve done in Division II and Division III,” Craze said, “and for us it’s going to start with preparation in the off-season. Once we get going in September we’ll start in the weight room and then we’ll start four-mans shortly after that. Our preparation will be the same as I’ve always done at different schools.”
And, seeing as how he was a pitching coach at Watterson, you can guess where Craze puts top on-the-field priority.
“For me it starts with pitching. That’s the critical element,” Craze pointed out. “We’ve got to be able to get good starts on the mound and build from there.
“Then it goes to making sure we can make the fundamental plays in the field,” he continued. “I won’t ask anybody to make spectacular plays, but (just make) the fundamental plays. And then (it goes) to making sure we’re stringing together quality at-bats as well.
“It’s no secret that if you can do those things and have success then you’re going to give your team a chance to be successful.”
And he will stress repetition at each and every practice.
“We have a lot juniors to be seniors returning this year, so that’s exciting in that we’ve got some guys who have some experience,” Craze said. “I think the one thing we want to make sure that we understand is we as coaches teach them first and then they have to be able to understand what we want to get accomplished.
“Then we’ll rep it and we will work hard in practice,” he added. “We will take a lot of reps. Our practices will be very competitive. And then you have to let them go play. The big thing for me is making sure that our guys do things the right way and that they know it’s about going out and competing hard every day.”
With as many as nine lettermen eligible to return next spring, not to mention upcoming freshmen and sophomores, Craze was asked what message he will have for his new players.
“I think it’s a message that we’re going to play for what’s on the front of the jersey and representing our community and our school by doing things the right way,” he said, “being held accountable and having a great attitude and passion for the game. I think if we can get that going right out of the gate everything else will fall into place.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this spring (and that the players) will enjoy the style of play that we’re going to try to instill,” he added. “To me, if you get guys buying into the program, trusting one another and making sure it’s all about ‘we,’ you never know... it can take you a long way.”