Huber steps down as Barons’ coach; Thompson returns

By on March 13, 2019
Jason Thompson (front left) makes a mound visit during his first ten-ure as the Barons’ head coach from 2001-13.

Jason Thompson (front left) makes a mound visit during his first ten-ure as the Barons’ head coach from 2001-13.

This season will be the 10th anniversary of a wild playoff run for Manheim Central’s baseball team.

Seeded 16th in the District Three Triple-A playoffs, the Barons advanced to the finals.

In doing so, they also punched their ticket for a bus ride up Route I-81 for the PIAA Tournament.

“When I coached under Jason Thompson, our first trip to States together and going up to Wilkes-Barre,” said then-Baron assistant Matt Huber, “that was awesome.”

It was one of many special memories which Huber collected while coaching for the past 13 years in Manheim Central’s program — the last five of those as the Barons’ skipper.

But last summer, Huber, believing the time was right to take a break, decided to step down.

“As many coaches do, I think you give a lot to the program and it just seemed like it was time for a change,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. My wife, family and extended family have been very supportive, and it’s been a great time. I have a lot of great memories and I don’t regret any of it. I’ve met a lot of great people there, the athletic department has been great to work with and (High School Principal) Mr. Weitzel and the other administrators have been awesome to work with as well.”

One of the first people Huber telephoned after making his decision was Thompson, who was head coach of the Barons from 2001-13. Huber, who graduated from Manheim Central High School in 2001, not only played his senior campaign under Thompson, but also served on his staff, for five years as head JV coach and three as an assistant.

“I have a lot of respect for Jason and the program that he ran,” said Huber, who compiled an overall record of 76-42 with two Section Three crowns, two PIAA qualifiers in 2015 and 2017 and four District Three appearances in five years. “I thought it was only fitting to let him know, for him to be one of the first people who knew that the program he handed to me that I was stepping away from and taking time away from.”

It was also a common courtesy to Thompson, in case he was interested in making a return.

Turns out, Thompson was.

And at Manheim Central’s school board meeting in October, he was approved as the Barons’ boss.

“It took some time for me to think about it, just because I wanted to make sure it was right for our family and so forth,” said Thompson, who graduated from Manheim Central in 1994.

His two sons, freshman Collin and sixth-grader Cameron, are either currently in the MC baseball program, or will be soon, so it made sense.

“The timing,” Thompson said, “is good to get back into it.”

When he stepped down in 2013, his goal was to pursue coaching at the college level. A seventh-grade math teacher at Manheim Central Middle School, Thompson took a half-year sabbatical and served on Jon Shehan’s staff at Millersville University as a volunteer assistant in 2014.

“The year that I was at Millersville was extremely beneficial for me just coaching-wise, to learn from Jon and how he ran his program,” Thompson said, “and some of the other things that he teaches at the college level that I’m able to bring back to these guys now.”

As Thompson learned, the college coaching schedule doesn’t mesh with teaching. Still, however, he remained active in the coaching circles, serving as either an assistant or head coach in Manheim’s 12U and 14U teams with Collin in the past few years.

Then, prior to applying for the Barons’ job, Thompson had also committed to helping Cameron’s 12U team this year.

“This spring is going to be a little nuts. I’m going to be running right from high school to 12U, eating in my car a lot,” Thompson laughed.

As Thompson takes over at the wheel of MC’s program, he’s excited about the group of players he is inheriting, one which includes seven seniors.

“They’re a great group of guys,” Thompson said. “Absolutely no complaining, they do exactly what we ask them to do, they work hard, they get along, they encourage each other and there’s certainly some talent returning — some veterans, for sure, coming back from last year’s group.”

A former pitcher at Manheim Central and Albright College, Thompson obviously has expertise with mound work, in addition to defense and other areas. But his staff — including Trey Eberly, Jared Griffith, head JV coach Matt Herbener, and J.J. Sanchez — will also make his job easier. Eberly and Sanchez are former players under Thompson who went on to pitch and catch, respectively, at Albright College and Lancaster Bible College.

“I’m able to get my hands in (all aspects of coaching) now, which is nice because all my assistants have an expertise field,” Thompson said. “It’s nice to have them doing stuff and I can roam around and help out where needed.”

Huber, meanwhile, will spend more time roaming the park this spring with his 5- and 8-year-old children, going for walks and scooter rides.

“I think family will always be part of decision-making and without a doubt, it was this year,” he said.

As he makes memories with his family, though, Huber will also cherish his time in the dugout. He will recall fondly, among other feats by the Barons, capturing the Section title in 2016 (MC’s first since 1983), going to States twice in three seasons and the Miracle in Devon, when pitcher Blake Reiff tossed a no-hitter in a PIAA first-round upset of Holy Ghost Prep in 2015.

“That was something we won’t forget for a long, long time,” Huber said. “There were definitely some great memories.”

Huber acknowledges that he will miss coaching. He got the first taste of that last Saturday, when the weather started to warm a bit.

“You could just hear the crack of a fungo getting ready to break loose,” he said. “I think all the coaches would agree that coaching a spring sport is tough as often as you’re pushed indoors, but as it gradually warms up, sure, I’ll miss it.”

The relationships that he has built with the parents, players and administrators will be in his thoughts.

“I’ll miss winning and losing,” Huber said, “but the relationships with the players is ultimately what you miss at practice and during the games.”

In the end, however, Huber just felt like the time was right to take a break.

“I’m involved in coach-pitch this year,” he said, “but I will coach high school again some day.”



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