The Press Newspaper
When you think of Northwood, you probably think about baseball and football, which have been the school's two premier sports for years.
While longtime coach Ken James consistently churns out perennial conference champion football teams year-in and year-out, historically it is the baseball program that often reigns supreme at Northwood.
For nearly 50 years, the Rangers have built and sustained a baseball program that has consistently won league titles and made tournament runs, and the program’s reputations was well known in Northwest Ohio back in the 70s and 80s. It hasn’t changed too much since.
In recognition of its accomplishments, Northwood will honor one of its best all-time coaches, Jeff Meyers, during its 10th Annual Northwood Ranger Baseball Alumni Game on August 16 at 1 p.m.
Meyers, who coached the Rangers for 11 years from 1979-89, finished his tenure as the winningest coach in school history with 201 victories.
Meyers left Northwood in 1989 to coach baseball in Key Largo, Florida. There, he won 143 games and four league titles at Coral Shore High School. Meyers said no matter where he was at, he treasured the relationship he had with his players.
“The big thing about coaching at Northwood is that I had a relationship with the kids that was so great – from the kids who didn't play one inning to guys like (former player) Dave Minarcin,” Meyers said. “It was tremendous.
“It was 11 years that I'll never forget, especially the relationship with the kids. The kids in Northwood just love the game, they love the camaraderie. We never had the problems with the parents that people run into at other schools. The parents were great. And because of them, we were pretty successful.
“I give a lot of credit to people that spent a lot of time (coaching youth baseball). Little league baseball in Northwood was fantastic. I do know that they did such a good job coaching the kids and not berating them and I think that was a big thing. When we got the kids in ninth grade, they understood baseball.”
Meyers was also proud of the fact that the baseball program helped Northwood to establish an identity.
“It's totally important (for baseball to be our identity),” he said. “The people bought into it. It started before I got there – it started with Larry and a little before Larry. That was very importaqnt, not just for the players but also for the town.”
“Winning two league titles in the SLL, that was a huge accomplishment,” he said. “To win league titles playing against Lakota, Genoa and Elmwood, that was the apex. That was beyond anything I could fathom.”
He oversaw a special run which saw Northwood win eight league titles, including seven straight (1979-85), a district championship (1984), a regional final appearance (1984) and four district runner-up finishes (1983, 1986, 1988, 1989).
Five players, Joe Vancena, Todd Mahaney, Scott Rode, Jeff Schwegler and Dave Minarcin, earned All-Ohio honors while playing for Meyers.
Minarcin played center field as a freshman on the 1984 squad that fell to eventual-state champion Miller City in the Class A regional final. His players said the program's success always meant everything to Meyers, his teammates as a player, and his players when he was coaching
“When you're winning, everyone is having fun,” Minarcin said. “I played four years, I had great teammates. The guys I played with were fantastic. That '84 senior class – Mike Susor, Denny DeLong, Todd Mahaney, Mike Gregory, Roger Measley and Chris Harrison – they were great leaders. There was Scott Rode, Dave Russell and me on that team, too.
“With Coach Meyers, we had the players and he gave us some freedom. He let us go, but he knew that sometimes he had to pull us back. I can tell you, when you're winning, it's a lot of fun. We still talk about the fun that we had playing; that overshadowed the games. The times that we had in the environment he created – it was very fun, very competitive. He didn't have to push buttons,” Minarcin continued.
“If you hear about these great teams, the coaches hand the keys over to the great leaders and the coach jumps in when he has to. Unless he felt that he had to do something, he created a very positive environment. He recognized the classes and he handed the teams over to the seniors. If he didn't like what he saw, you weren't going to get chewed out. He'd take you into his office and talk about it with you.”
Minarcin holds a special place in his heart for the young men, like Meyers, who played before him and helped to build and strengthen the foundation in the program.
“Those early guys really broke through and got it going and set the table,” said Minarcin, who sites Rick and Randy Coy and his brother, Rick, as some of his primary influences when he grew up watching baseball.
“They set the standard,” Minarcin said. “Coach Meyers kept the standard and then some. When we were kids, we looked up to those guys. They were great athletes and even better people. We were a product of those guys and what they did.
“The first year was 1964, and (those teams) started to break through and I really think those teams set things up for us. Jeff came in 1979 after Larry Smith and won 20 games with a good team. Those (early) teams should be recognized.”
To give an idea of just how great Northwood baseball was over the years, take this into consideration. The Rangers lost six times in the tournament to the eventual state champion – 1976 to Leipsic; 1977 and 1984 to Miller City; 1986 to Ottawa Hills; and 1990 and 1992 to Coldwater.
In fact, the 1976 team, which included Rick Minarcin, Doug Canaday, Rick Coy, John Bassitt and Jim Mysinger, among others, beat Blissfield, a league rival, twice before Blissfield won Michigan’s Class C state title that same year.