By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Standing at Central High School on Thursday morning, Brent Haring was already back on a baseball diamond.
He had just flown in from Utah, a more than 2,000-mile trip across the country, but that didn't matter. He was already exuding his coaching ways, pretending to throw a baseball from first base as a friend looked on.
"He's obsessed," Woodstock River Bandits owner Jim Yates said softly, distorting the seriousness in his tone.
Whether the observation was meant to be funny or not, there's truth behind it, and for the Valley Baseball League's River Bandits, it's clear their newly hired manager is fit for the job.
"I'm excited about [being named manager]," Haring said. "I feel like I've been mentored by some of the best coaches in college baseball and I'm excited to put that to use. I feel like we're going to be able to put a good, quality product on the field and hopefully we can compete for a championship."
Leaving his wife behind for the weekend, Haring packed his bags and flew out from Utah to spend a few days in what will be his home next summer. After several stints as an assistant coach at the collegiate level, Haring is getting his first crack at the managerial position and is already making the most of his opportunity.
"Well, I came out here and played two years at Southern Virginia University and fell in love with this area," Haring said. "To me, it's maybe the most beautiful area in the country. I love the people out here, so for me it was a no-brainer to come and spend the summer here."
Despite growing up in St. George, Utah, Haring has extensive baseball experience all over the country, including multiple stops along the East Coast. His first job was at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, where he spent a year before moving to Mount Olive, N.C., to serve as an assistant coach at Mount Olive College. In 2007, Haring returned to Southern Virginia University -- his alma mater -- before coaching at Harding University in Arkansas for the 2008 season and moving back to his home state to coach at Dixie State College, where he currently coaches.
It's been a long road to become the manager of the River Bandits, but a conversation with Haring reveals he knows more about the game of baseball than most, and is interested in bringing his philosophies to Woodstock.
"There's definitely a difference between West Coast and East Coast [baseball] as far as the way they play the game a little bit," Haring said. "The West Coast style is typically a bit more execution-style game. Bunts, hit and runs, running the bases, an emphasis on those things, and I'm that kind of guy. I'm a West Coast guy. I believe in being able to manufacture runs and we're going to go out and find players who will fit into that system."
It's a daunting task for Haring. Last season, the River Bandits jumped out to a 7-3 record, but losing streaks of three, five, four and another five games to end the season left Woodstock with a 17-27 mark, worst in the Valley League.
It'll be up to Haring to remedy the team's disappointing 2010 season, but he won't have to face it alone. In addition to Haring, the River Bandits have also named Brandon Turley their general manager/pitching coach. Turley and Haring spent time together at Southern Virginia over the past decade, and together will aim to mesh the Woodstock community and a winning baseball club.
"I think a lot of the success on the field can be contributed to what's going on off the field," Turley said. "When the players see how excited the fans are about it, that feeds into how they play, also."
This will be Turley's first stint as a general manager. After serving as the head coach at Southern Virginia for two years in 2007-08 and receiving his master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Turley will be reunited with Haring and will oversee off-the-field responsibilities as well as coach the River Bandits' pitching staff.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff," Turley said. "Working with the community, getting everything organized.
"We want to get the best kids that we can get and Brent, the sky's the limit for him. He knows the game inside and out, he's one of the best recruiters in the country and we just complement each other so well."