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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Isbell, Kneirim leave baseball for business venture

Clay High School has only had four head baseball coaches in nearly 90 years, but the Eagles will soon get coach No. 5.

Garry Isbell, who took over for 13-year veteran coach Karl Knierim prior to the 2010 season, said he met with the Clay administration about two weeks ago to tell them he would no longer be the Eagles’ coach.

The other three coaches over those nine decades were Harold Potter, who coached for about a half century, Richard Kandik, who led his team to the Class AAA state championship in 1979, and Knierim was head coach before becoming an assistant under Isbell.

GaryIsbell
Gary Isbell. (Press file photo by J. Patrick Eaken)

 “We will miss Coach Isbell’s passion for coaching high school baseball. Garry truly cares about his players” states Athletic Director Mike Donnelly. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

A search has already begun for the next head baseball coach, says Donnelly.

“Our goal is to have a new coach in place toward the end of September if not sooner. We will be following the process as spelled out in our bargaining agreement. I have no doubt that we will attract quality candidates.”

Isbell, 35, said he met with the Clay players last week to give them the news that he and Knierim were opening their own business venture near the Hollywood Casino.

“Some of the kids were excited (for me) and some of them were upset,” Isbell said. “They had mixed emotions.”

Isbell, who guided the Eagles to a 16-14 record, a runner-up finish in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference and a district title last season, and Knierim are opening Strike Zone Sports Training, located at 202 W. Florence Ave. The facility boasts 12,000 square feet and is scheduled to open Dec. 1.

“Clay’s gymnastics coach, Nick Distel, runs a gym out of the same building,” Isbell said. “He’s got 10,000 square feet over there, and we’re going to have one of the bays next to him.”

Isbell said he and Knierim have been working toward opening the new baseball-softball facility for six months.

“As we kind of dove into it we figured out that with us being the owners, we’re going to have to be there a lot,” Isbell said. “I don’t want to say (Clay) baseball was going to get in the way, but it would take up our time in the spring. I’m real excited about this. Now we’ll be able to work with Clay kids and all of the Northwest Ohio kids over there.”

Knierim had a successful run as the Eagles’ baseball coach. In 13 seasons he compiled a 235-105 record with three regional tournament appearances. He is also a member of the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches’ Hall of Fame.

Prior to taking over for Knierim in 2010, Isbell was involved with the Eagles' baseball program for nine years, including six as Knierim's varsity assistant. The Eagles won two City League titles and three Great Lakes League titles under Knierim.

Isbell said one exciting aspect of his new venture will be the fact that he will not be restricted to the amount of hours he is able to work with the Clay players. The Ohio High School Athletic Association limits the amount of hours a coach is allowed to spend with players in the offseason.

“The kids can get there and I can work with them all year round,” Isbell said. “As it is now, we can’t work with the kids until March. I have an opportunity to make them better.”

Strike Zone Sports Training features six hitting tunnels, four pitching lanes and an open area for infield and outfield defensive drills.

“I have a little boy who is 9 and is into travel baseball and flag football,” Isbell said. “We will use the facility for those things, also. We want to be able to service all of the high school teams in the winter and the gazillion youth travel softball and baseball teams that get started in November. Hopefully, we’ll be able to service their winter needs. We’re going to give it a good go.”

Isbell said he and Knierim will continue to teach at Clay. Knierem teaches physical education and Isbell is a special needs teacher. Isbell said he would like to see junior varsity coach Jason Box succeed him at the varsity level.

“Jason has been my jayvee coach the last three years, and he played for Karl,” Isbell said. “I don’t know if they (Clay administration) have anybody in mind. The job is posted in our district and I don’t know if anybody is going to apply for it. I would recommend Jason. I think he’s very qualified for the position.

“We have a lot of good Clay guys out and about in the community who would do a phenomenal job. I don’t think they’ll have a hard time filling that position.”