By Ryan Hines
COLUMBUS -- It was an enjoyable two-year run for the Grand Lake Mariners under head coach Mike Stafford.
Unfortunately for Mariners fans, Stafford won't becoming back to Grand Lake next summer after taking a higher position with Ball State, a position that will not allow him to keep his Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League coaching job.
Stafford is the new number-one assistant for Ball State after holding down the pitching coach duties in the past.
"With my new job at Ball State, I won't be able to coach for Grand Lake anymore because my recruiting will be done predominantly in the summer. I'm going to miss doing this because the two years that I was in Celina, I really enjoyed," noted Stafford. "Wayne (general manager Wayne Miller), Margaret (Miller) and the rest of the Mariners organization have always treated me well and I can't thank them enough.
The fiery, colorful and brutally honest Stafford will be missed in the dugout at Jim Hoess Field. Time after time, Stafford supported his players' beefs with umpires -- sometimes over the top -- and countless times I heard players thanking him after games for sticking up for them.
There were times where his brutal honesty and intensity might have rubbed players the wrong way, but according to Columbus All-Americans head coach Brian Mannino, "Mike just coaches the way he played the game. All out."'
Mannino, who coached the All-Americans to the regular season GLSCL championship, knows Stafford plenty well after having him as a pitching coach under him with Columbus in the past.
The Mariners may not have to look far to find Stafford's replacement with Scott French as the leading candidate.
"Hopefully Scott French (the current Mariners assistant coach) came bring in some more talented kids in here and keep Grand Lake in the hunt," said Stafford. "I've mentioned it to Wayne that I think it would be a great fit to have Scott replace me here as head coach and I think that he respects my opinion and I think that's the way that they're leaning right now."
French's responsibilities lied mostly with the offense this past summer while Stafford headed the pitching.
"Scott has been at Ball State for two years and he played at Ball State and was a pretty good player," added Stafford. "Him being here as an assistant this year should have helped prepare him on what he might expect if he was named the head coach for next season."
Whether it's French, or whoever, fans will certainly be expecting to see another season of intense baseball played the right way at Jim Hoess Field next summer.
Because that's what they've witnessed the past two years under Stafford and that's what they've come to expect from the Mariners.