When David Quiroga played baseball at Waite, the Indians were one of the best teams in the City League.
Danny Clayton was the Indians' coach, and Quiroga was the team's standout catcher and part-time pitcher. Quiroga was a first-team all-league and all-district performer as a senior, when he was named the CL co-player of the year.
Quiroga helped Waite win the CL title his junior year, in 2002, and take second place to St. Francis de Sales in 2003.
In mid-December, he was hired as Waite's new baseball coach. Clayton, who guided Waite the past two years, resigned as the Indians' coach. Quiroga said the reasons for him wanting to become the Indians' next baseball coach were simple.
"I've been an East-sider my whole life," he said. "I always took a lot of pride in Waite High School. I tried to make it out to as many Waite sporting events as I could when I was in school, and I still do now. I've always been a sports guy.
"With the baseball job opening up, it was a perfect fit for me. I can walk to Waite. To go back and coach the school I played at and won championships and competed with, to get them to play at the level I played at is exciting. It's a program that needs a little help in rebuilding and it's something I want to help rebuild, with guys who want to work hard."
The Indians finished in the bottom half of the CL in 2009, but they have shown that they can compete with the best teams in the league.
Clayton left for Genoa following the 2003 season and turned the Comets into a Suburban Lakes League power. After Clayton's son, a standout baseball player at Genoa, graduated, Clayton went back to Waite to give it another shot and coached the Indians the past two seasons.
Quiroga saw firsthand how Clayton ran his program and how he made Waite baseball relevant in the CL. The 2003 team was a good example.
"Our 2003 team wasn't supposed to be competitive," Quiroga said of his senior season. "We lost our top three pitchers and about half of our starters (from 2002), but our pitching panned out and we did all right. We had a lot of new kids who got into the starting lineup. To have a chance to win, it was a high point."
Losing the 2003 CL championship game to St. Francis didn't put a damper on the season, Quiroga said.
"You always want to win," he said, "but you'd rather be there and lose than not be there at all."
Quiroga, 24, earned Waite's Top Scholar Athlete Award as a senior and graduated with a 3.99 GPA.
Quiroga, who was a volunteer assistant under Clayton last season, said he always tried to use his brain as much as his athletic talent on the baseball field. He became the Indians' starting catcher five games into his sophomore season after starter Bob Scharer broke his hand. Scharer later returned to the team as a designated hitter.
"I had baseball knowledge," Quiroga said. "I played every position. I could play every spot. I knew pitching rotations and defensive assignments. I guess you could say I had a great work ethic. I wasn't overly talented when I started, but I worked at it."
Quiroga played baseball at Owens Community College for two years under coach Bob Schultz, a Waite graduate. Schultz moved Quiroga to third base, where he became an All-OCCAC player and helped the Express make the NJCAA Great Lakes Regional tournament both years.
"Playing third base was an easy transition," Quiroga said. "It was similar to catching, you just had to react. You didn't have time to think. I wasn't the best third baseman by any means. What got me the all-league votes was my hitting more than my defensive play."
By his second season at Owens, Quiroga was being recruited by several four-year schools. He picked Ashland University.
"Ashland told me they planned to transition me from third base to outfield," Quiroga said.
He sat out his first year with the Eagles after breaking his right ring finger playing flag rugby in a physical education class. Ironically, he later earned his degree in phys ed and is now a substitute teacher for Toledo Public Schools.
"I came back and didn't get a whole lot of playing time as a junior," Quiroga said. "I did my student teaching in the fall in the Loundonville, Ohio, area at three different schools. I only had one class at Ashland my spring season as a senior, so I got to put a lot of extra time into baseball and in the weight room."
Ashland coach John Schaly played Quiroga in the outfield, primarily in left.
"That was the hardest transition for me," Quiroga said. "I went from never seeing fly balls to seeing guys hit rockets off those metal bats. As a junior, defensively, I didn't have it down all the way yet. I put in a lot of extra time and worked at it. I made all the routine plays and some of the special ones. I wasn't a Gold Glove guy out there."
Schaly said, "We put him in the outfield primarily because of his speed. He had good speed and a good arm. He did well."
Quiroga was named to the All-GLIAC second team and was an all-academic conference selection as a senior in 2008. He was named to the first team in the North-Central Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Ashland was one of eight teams to advance to the NCAA Division II World Series in Sauget, Ill., in 2008.
"The first game we knocked off two-time defending champion Tampa," Quiroga recalled. "I hit a home run in the sixth inning to tie the score (at 5-5). We lost the next two games (to top-ranked and eventual champion Mount Olive College and Ouachita Baptist) after taking a lead into the sixth inning in both games."
Quiroga, who batted .388 with 68 runs, 19 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 17 stolen bases and 43 RBI, said playing in the World Series was "by far" the best baseball experience of his life. Ashland finished 40-18 that season.
"That first game against Tampa, I've never been so excited to be on a baseball field," he said. "After that first pitch or two, it was hard to describe. Not many people get to experience that. To hit a home run in the spot I hit one, I can say my heart had never beaten any faster."
Quiroga hopes to instill that same kind of passion into Waite's baseball program. Schaly said his former pupil will do just fine.
"We're real excited for David and I know he'll do a real good job there," the coach said. "He's got a great work ethic and he was one of the harder workers on our team. He was a smart player. He understands the game and I think he'll
be able to communicate that to his team."