Thompson steps down from MC Long-time skipper joins staff at Millersville
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
As the head coach for Manheim Central’s baseball team over the years, Jason Thompson made the third base coach’s box his home away from home.
Next spring, he will be moving to the first base box.
Not for the Barons.
But for the Millersville University baseball team.
Having accepted an offer to become an assistant with the Marauders coaching their outfielders and helping out skipper Jon Shehan with the hitters, Thompson stepped down last Thursday as Manheim Central’s coach.
In 13 years as the Barons’ boss from 2001-13, Thompson compiled an overall record of 141-130, leading Manheim Central to the District Three Triple-A finals in 2009 and the Lancaster-Lebanon League finals in 2010. He guided MC to five straight double-digit win seasons since 2009, going 69-45 over that span with four District playoff appearances. Thompson also served one season as an assistant for the Barons in 2000 under Troy Brown, the last time that Manheim Central took home the L-L League crown.
"A personal and professional goal of mine was always to make it to the college level," said Thompson, 37, a 1994 Manheim Central grad. "It wasn’t an easy thing to do (to resign from Manheim Central), especially to know the group of talent that’s coming back and the future kids that are coming through the program. But I felt it was something that I couldn’t pass up. I don’t know how often that chance is ever going to come for me to jump from high school to Division Two. And with the program Millersville and coach Shehan have put together, it’s a good opportunity for me to get exposed to the college game and learn from those guys and have some success because it will be a good group that’s coming back from what I understand."
Among the group of returning players for the Marauders team which won the PSAC East title and earned the NCAA Atlantic Region No. 1 seeding in 2013 are two former Warwick stars, Mark Stuckey and Adam Zipko.
Thompson’s connection to Shehan came through Marc Shoenfelt, of the B2B Baseball Academy in Manheim, who gave his friend a recommendation last winter when MU’s boss had an opening for a pitching a coach.
That position was still available in June when Thompson headed to the Marauders’ baseball office to meet with Shehan, a Lampeter-Strasburg and Millersville grad who signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves in 2004, and MU assistant/recruiting coordinator Nolan Nieman.
They had a productive two to three-hour meeting, but Thompson, a former pitcher at Albright College, didn’t get the job.
"They brought in another guy to do the pitching," Thompson said. "When (Shehan) called and told me that I didn’t get the pitching coach job, he said it was a tough decision. It basically came down to the fact that that guy could be in the office pretty much full-time. Obviously, with me still teaching, I can’t be in the office full-time."
A sixth-grade pre-algebra teacher at Manheim Central Middle School, Thompson kept in touch with Shehan over the next few weeks. Then when assistant Bob Preli took a position as the Penn State Mont Alto head coach, one thing led to another and Thompson was on board with the MU staff.
"Within a week or two after the pitching coach job went, (Preli) took a job at Penn State Mont Alto and I reached out to coach Shehan again and said, ‘Hey, I know I didn’t get the pitching coach job, but I still want to get to the college level. I’d be willing to join your staff,’" said Thompson, who has two sons, Collin and Cameron, with his wife Taura. "Like I said, it was just a good opportunity for me, and it’s local. I’m not ready to move my family, to pick up and move and so forth. So it was a way for me to stay in Manheim and get experience at the college level."
The next step for Thompson was to let the Manheim Central team know about his decision. Not wanting to be a distraction to the Manheim VFW Midget squad as they were playing in the New Era Tournament, he waited until last Thursday. Thompson phoned his coaches in the morning, then sat down with the MC administration in the afternoon and met with his players in the early evening at the Barons’ baseball field.
"I had wanted it all done in one day because I know how things get out," Thompson said.
Many of the memories that he will take away from his coaching career at Manheim Central are the "fantastic" kids that he had a privilege to work with over the past decade and a half.
"They work hard, They certainly love and the community loves their sports," Thompson said. "I’m going to turn into more of a fan now that I’m coaching at the college level … But the ’09 run was exciting. I’ll certainly take that away. The League finals at the Clipper, I’ll certainly take that one away. That’s a big memory. And when I started out in ’01, we had some rough seasons. So just getting to the point in the program where I felt like we were consistently winning more than we were losing and kinda getting the program back to where it was when Hen (Bell) was coach, back to when Manheim was traditionally a strong baseball school (is a good memory)."
But while Thompson will miss his former players at Manheim Central, he is excited to begin a new chapter in his baseball life.
"They were wonderful kids and fun to deal with, but I’m certainly looking forward to what I have coming here (at Millersville)," Thompson said. "I feel like I’m ready. Not saying by any means that I know it all. I’m going to soak in everything I can from coach Shehan and coach Neiman. There’s a lot more than can go into the college game. For me, it’s going to be a huge chance to learn and grow more as a coach and certainly learn from a guy (Shehan) that’s been successful."
More THOMPSON, page B-4