By Brad Fauber
Brad Neffendorf spent a full season in the Valley Baseball League as the pitching coach for the Winchester Royals in 2011, but it took just one game for the Portland, Ore., native to become impressed with one of Winchester's North Division rivals.
The first game of the Royals' VBL championship run that season came on the road against the Front Royal Cardinals at Bing Crosby Stadium, and Neffendorf's debut in the Valley League made a lasting impression on him.
"We had a really good summer there, and I was really impressed with the way Front Royal did things ... the stadium, the way they went about things," Neffendorf said in a phone interview Thursday.
So it comes as no surprise that when Front Royal native and current Cardinals assistant coach Keaton Neeb -- who played college baseball at Campbellsville (Ky.) University, where Neffendorf has served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator since 2011 -- approached Neffendorf about the Cardinals' head coaching vacancy, Neffendorf was eager to land the job.
Neffendorf now finds himself back in the Valley Baseball League once more, as he was announced as the new manager of the Cardinals at a public event in Front Royal last Saturday.
Neffendorf, the Cardinals' third manager in three seasons, replaces Jake Weghorst, who coached Front Royal for one season while leading the program to a 19-25 record and a fifth-place finish in the North Division last year.
"To be able to go out and help these kids develop and help myself develop as a coach, it's a great opportunity," Neffendorf said. "I'm looking forward to it."
In addition to his time at Campbellsville and the brief stint in the Valley League, Neffendorf has held a handful of coaching positions at various levels since completing his own college baseball career at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore., in 2004.
Neffendorf has since coached at several high schools in his home state, and he served as the head coach for some highly successful 18U select teams in the Northwest. He also held a role as a part-time scout for the Miami Marlins from 2007-2010, according to the Campbellsville University athletic website.
Last season, Neffendorf helped lead Campbellsville to a National Christian College Athletic Association Mid-East Region championship and third-place finish in the NCCAA World Series. The Tigers' pitching staff tied a program record with 425 strikeouts, and ranked ninth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in strikeouts per nine innings (7.03), 15th in opponent batting average (.214) and 20th in earned run average (3.26), according to the school's website.
Neffendorf will be tasked with turning around a Cardinals program that has missed out on the playoffs the last few seasons, and he said his focus when building this year's roster has been to find experienced, physical players.
He added that the Cardinals will feature an offense designed to put pressure on opposing pitching and defense.
"One of my goals is just an exciting team, a competitive team that's going to do things the right way," Neffendorf said. "We'll be able to run and do some things, and we'll have some guys who can drive the ball as well."
Joining Neffendorf on the Cardinals' coaching staff are Jordan McCavitt (St. Catharine College), Jonathan Riddle (Union College) and Neeb.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD