A coach and one of his former players, both residents of South Charleston, are among five individuals who will be inducted into the Springfield/Clark County Baseball Hall of Fame on Jan. 10.
Rick Woods has been Southeastern High School’s head baseball coach since 1987. Craig Isaac, one of Woods’ players, graduated from Southeastern and went on to play semi-professional ball and coach. Upon receiving word of their selection for induction, both shared their favorite baseball memories.
A 1977 graduate of Southeastern, Woods was cut from the varsity baseball team every year until his senior year. He said he was better at basketball and football. Coaching baseball has been a different story.
“I had three or four different coaches who inspired me and made me think about going into coaching,” Woods said.
In his 22 years as Southeastern’s head baseball coach, Woods has accumulated an overall record of 308-245 and a conference record of 174-75. He has led the Trojans to two conference championships, 11 second-place finishes, six sectional titles and one district title. His teams have won at least one tournament game 20 of 22 years. He was Clark County Coach of the Year in 2003 and inducted into the Miami Valley High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. He also coached summer league teams for the same 22 years.
When asked why he has stuck with coaching for so long, Woods said, “I like working with kids… It’s been enjoyable coaching my own kids and friends’ kids from T-ball on up.” Woods’ sons, A.J. and Aaron, graduated from Southeastern in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His third son, Bradley, is a sophomore.
The Hall of Fame honor came as a surprise, one that Woods humbly appreciates.
“It’s not me who’s throwing the ball or catching it. It’s the kids doing it, and I’ve been fortunate to be working with them,” he said, also crediting his coaching staff for the program’s success.
Woods said he is proudest of what his players have done since graduation.
“At any school, but especially one our size, it’s hard to see any kids making it to the pro level. So, I try to teach character and discipline, things that will help them out in life later on,” he said.
Some of Woods’ charges have followed in his footsteps into coaching. They include Rob Cassell, the new head coach at Springfield, Jason Cordial, who has served as assistant coach at West Liberty Salem for many years, Chris Kitchen, a Northeastern coach, and Craig Isaac, Woods’ fellow Hall of Fame inductee. Cassell and Kitchen cut their coaching teeth as assistants for Woods at Southeastern.
Isaac is happy to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with his former high school coach and to know his peers selected him for the honor. He is happiest, though, that his father, Veldin Isaac, will witness the ceremony.
“He worked at Kroger’s early in the morning. When he’d get home, I’d be sitting at the door with a ball and a glove. He never once said ‘no’ to me,” Isaac said. “He drove me to over 70 games a year when I was too young to drive… Without his encouragement, constructive criticism and just being a great dad, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”
Isaac is in his first year as assistant principal at Reid Elementary in the Clark-Shawnee School District. Prior to taking the administrative position, he was head baseball coach at Springfield Shawnee for eight years, the most recent example of Isaac’s lifelong devotion to the sport.
As a right-handed pitcher at Southeastern, Isaac was named all-Ohio, all-area, all-Miami Valley, and all-conference. At Wittenberg University, he was third in career victories, second in innings pitched, all NCAC from 1991 to 1994, and all-Midwest in 1994.
After college, Isaac was the all-time winning pitcher for the Springfield Giants, a semi-pro league that operated from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. He started and won the 2002 national championship game, pitching seven innings on two days’ rest.
To stay close to the game, he went into coaching.
“I wanted to teach young men to play the right way—with integrity, passion and loyalty. Pushing them to their limits and getting them to the next level will be one of my fondest memories,” said Isaac.
In addition to Woods and Isaac, the other members of the Hall of Fame induction class of 2009 are: Dustin Hermanson, a former Major League pitcher and Kenton Ridge graduate; Eric Thompson, a former Greenon and Ohio State player, as well as a minor league pitcher; and the late Dick Chaney, an amateur and minor league player. The Springfield 1969 Babe Ruth All-Stars and the 1983 Post Printing teams also will be inducted.
The Hall of Fame, which turns 50 years old in 2009, is located at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield. Approximately 140 individuals have been inducted. Their names are printed on 18-inch bats mounted on a Wall of Bats in the artifacts room.
The Jan. 10 induction ceremony, which is open to the public, will take place at the UAW 402 Hall on Urbana Road. Gene Bennett, Cincinnati Reds senior assistant to the general manager, is the guest speaker. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased at Trophy Sports Center, 2030 N. Limestone St., Springfield, or at the National Trail Parks and Recreation District Office, 1301 Mitchell Blvd., Springfield.
For details, call 937-328-3452 or 399-6750.