This Titan team gets a new motto
PEACH VALLEY Luke LaBaw lives and breathes baseball.During a three-year teaching stint at an international school in North Jakarta, Indonesia, his beloved Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. In order to catch the curse-snapping Series, LaBaw forfeited plenty of sleep.”I was luckily able to get it on TV over there,” the newly appointed Coal Ridge High School baseball coach recalled. “I had to get up at 3 a.m. but I caught all the World Series games. The kids here (at Coal Ridge) think I’m a little fanatical for Boston.”LaBaw’s passion for baseball is glaring, and less than two months into his job as the Titans’ diamond frontman, it’s clear he’s serious about turning the corner with a program hampered by growing pains.
“We’re finally going to take a step up, take it upon ourselves,” the 28-year-old stressed. “I think we’ll be fairly strong. We’ll definitely make a better showing this year than the past two years. We have leadership on the team. These seniors are tired of losing, they’re tired of excuses. I think that Coal Ridge baseball will have a different tone to it this year.”This upcoming school year will be the first that Coal Ridge – which opened in 2005-06 – will field sports teams with seniors. The Titan baseball program never really found its groove under coach Scott Schilt, who left the program following a winless 2007 season.LaBaw, who graduated from Rifle in 1997, returned to the Western Slope to teach American History at Coal Ridge last year. He served as an assistant baseball coach on top of the teaching duties and, once he learned of the opening, pounced on the head coaching gig.After attending Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa – where he played football and baseball – LaBaw taught and coached at Kingman High School in Arizona before really spreading his wings and heading overseas to teach and serve as athletic director at the international school in Indonesia.
LaBaw spent three years in southeast Asia, which served as quite the life – and sports – experience. There, he helped fortify the sports curriculum.”In the beginning, there really was no coaching philosophy,” he said. “It was a pre-K-through-10th grade, all-encompassing school with a high (English as a Second Language) population. The kids were competitive. Soccer was their sport. They loved it.”LaBaw sees parallels between his overseas experience and what he’ll face at Coal Ridge.”It’s sort of the same thing,” he explained. “We had to build tradition there. There were no expectations for the programs. Anywhere you’re at, kids are kids and they want to play. They want to go out there and have fun with their friends. It didn’t take a long time, and I don’t think the transition for baseball here will take a long time.”
One thing’s certain. LaBaw is attacking his new job with vigor and enthusiasm. First and foremost, LaBaw wants to create a winning attitude.”Our motto this year, to the baseball team anyway, is ‘Building tradition and leaving a legacy,'” he said. “We’ve really had, to this point, a standstill. There were a lot of excuses – ‘We’re not old enough. We’re not strong enough.’ It’s time to eliminate those excuses and start competing.”With a solid senior core, including the likes of Aaron Matthews, Jake Swindell, Zach Lyons and Brett Burrows, LaBaw thinks it can be done sooner than later.And so begins another chapter in a life ruled by baseball.”Baseball’s always been my passion and love,” LaBaw said. “Overseas, I was able to be around it a little, but couldn’t even catch a baseball game on TV. In all honesty, that was one of the reasons I came back when I did. I was having baseball withdrawal.”
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