Brian Young figures he’s paid his dues and is primed and ready for his first try at meeting the challenges of running a high school baseball program.
“I’m excited and ready to get started,” he said only days after the PUSD governing board officially hired him as the next Longhorn baseball coach replacing Scott Novack who resigned at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Young, an English teacher at PHS, has worked the past seven years as the junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant to both Jerry Daniels and Novack.
Among the reasons he and his wife, Kim — now a Rim Country Middle School teacher — moved to Payson was to enable him to have an opportunity to someday rise in the profession to the position of head coach.
“There isn’t too many high school coaching opportunities where I come from (Nebraska and Wyoming) and my wife and I wanted a warmer climate,” Young said. “We started in Colorado looking around and ended up coming to Payson.
“This is the best place of anywhere we visited.”
While there have been a carousel of coaches come and go at Payson High, Young is committed to staying.
“We plan on being here long term,” he said.
The acclimation process of stepping into a head coach’s shoes wasn’t difficult for Young because he’s been involved in the PHS program long enough to know the players, how the system functions and what’s needed to keep it running smoothly, if not improve it.
“There’s not going to be many big changes, but a few subtle things will be done differently,” he said. “I’d like to try and get the kids out in the community and have them more well known.
“I’d also like to start some new traditions.”
The new coach has already had ample opportunities to put his trademark on the program. The chances came during summer league games against Globe and Coconino, at summer workouts and in team meetings.
Because the Longhorns didn’t play a full slate of games last season, Young spent much of his time working with the varsity team — which means he’s very familiar with the players that in 2013 will be members of his first-ever varsity team.
He calls the returning players “a very exciting group, talented and one that pitches well.”
Although the coach will apparently lose one of his top returnees, Chance Randall, whose family is reportedly moving to the Valley, he has several other prospects to build the foundation of next year’s team.
Among them are a group of last year’s sophomores who have come up through the ranks together and once formed the nucleus of Payson’s most successful Little League team.
They include Tyus Sarnowski, Daley Carnes, Nate McMullen, Miguel Mendoza and Konor Duran.
Gunner Goodman and J.J. Ward are also expected to make a run for playing time.
Among those who will be juniors next school year, McMullen is widely considered a budding talent with unlimited potential. Last year, he led the team in hitting with a .488 average that included four home runs, 13 doubles, 44 RBIs and 31 runs scored.
Coach Pichotta at AZsportsnetwork is among those high on McMullen, “A favorite young player in the state of mine. This kid, with the right coaching as he moves forward, should be a dominant force.”
Carnes hit at a .328 clip and Mendoza was respectable hitting .286.
While the group features some good hitters, its strong point might be pitching.
Last season, Mendoza was the team’s mound ace finishing with a 4-2 record, a 4.52 ERA and 27 strikeouts.
Sarnowski, who played catcher much of the season, compiled a 1-1 record and a 3.79 ERA and Goodman was 1-0, a 4.20 ERA and 23 strikeouts.
Duran might also be able to pitch on the varsity level but made only two appearances last season.
While the 2013 season is months away, the new coach is already assessing his opponents and pointing to Fountain Hills as one of the teams to beat in the chase for Division III, Section III honors.
“They have a good program, we’d like to model ours after them,” Young said.
The coach also anticipates Chino Valley, Mingus and Estrella Foothills could also field contending teams.