MINFORD — For Anthony Knittel, the past four springs have been about fastballs and even fungo bats.
But now, his immediate future is about faith and family —and selling sporting goods.
That’s because Knittel, a West High School graduate but a coach within Minford’s baseball program for the past seven seasons, recently announced his intention to resign as head coach —citing that his new employment with BSN Sports will not provide for the necessary time commitments to baseball.
Knittel served for three seasons (2016, 2017 and 2018) as an assistant coach, as Minford made the Division III state tournament five years ago in 2018.
Knittel took over the Falcon program the next year, and in each of the three seasons (2019, 2021 and 2022) since, Minford captured Division III district championships —including back-to-back as Region 11 runners-up in 2019 and 2021.
The Falcons also won the Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship in his first three years —with the middle of that trio (2019) being a shared title with Wheelersburg.
Unfortunately, there was no season in 2020 —canceled by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as a result of the coronavirus threat.
Knittel, in a recent interview with The Portsmouth Daily Times, described making a “tough decision” to step away.
He mentioned his wife and their four children — ages two, three, five and seven —and raising them while working and coaching the great game of baseball at the same time.
“It’s one of the toughest decisions of my life. I’ve put so much into the Minford program, a lot of time invested and it’s been something I’ve been very passionate about. But my new job which I am enjoying and looking forward to was going to be a challenge timewise, and as passionate as I am about baseball and to Minford baseball, I wasn’t going to be able to devote the time necessary to it and the boys,” he said. “We preach priorities, which is much more than just baseball. It’s faith and family first. Then all else. We have to have priorities, that’s what I preach to the boys. At the end of the day, your family and faith and being a father and a husband come first.”
Knittel graduated from West in 2011, and played two seasons at Marietta College before transferring to —and completing his education at — the University of Rio Grande.
He assisted Brent Daniels during the 2016 campaign —followed by two years under Aaron Hopper.
He then took over the Falcons, surrounded himself with a “great group of assistant coaches”, and picked up where Hopper had left off after the regional championship.
“Ultimately, it’s about the kids. I surrounded myself with coaches who seriously believed in that,” said Knittel. “I had such a great time coaching and it’s memories I will always cherish.”
Knittel went on to add that “while winning is great and it’s a fun thing and it became familiar for us at Minford”, his best Minford memories were witnessing his players “grow into men”.
“The best memories man…to see these boys’ maturity over the course of their high school careers,” he said. “We had a lot of what I call quiet leaders, but watching them mature over four years was truly an honor I had as a coach.”
Knittel thanked the tight-knit Falcon community, praising especially the baseball parents.
“A lot of bonds built and good relationships. Minford is an outstanding community and it’s truly been a blessing to coach there. A lot of people fully committed, great kids on and off the field,” he said. “They made my job as a coach much easier.”
Knittel said his coaching continues on actually —at home.
“It’s time for me to focus on my new job and my family, and create more memories. I will miss coaching, but I want to spend more time now as a dad and a husband. The time and commitment I gave to many Minford baseball players like they were my own kids, it’s time to direct that attention to my four young kids,” he said. “God has been good to me, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have coached at Minford, but ultimately it’s time now for my family and my new job.”
As for a possible coaching return to America’s pastime, Knittel never ruled it out.
“I’m not opposed eventually coming back, but right now it’s not my focus,” he said. “We shall see what the Lord has in store for us.”
For Knittel now though, it’s faith and family and friends — and not fastballs nor fungo bats.