WEST PORTSMOUTH — Chris Rapp is stepping out of the coach’s box, and into the principal’s office.
Indeed, after a highly-successful coaching career which actually ended with a Hall of Fame induction, it’s a wrap for Rapp when it comes to coaching baseball at Portsmouth West High School.
That’s because Rapp, following 23 years as the Senators’ skipper, has decided to step away from that position —as he is now the new high school building principal.
Rapp said he “could have done both jobs”, but being building principal HAS to have his undivided attention.
He spoke with The Portsmouth Daily Times on Friday about his decision.
“I can think of many reasons to stay as coach, but those would be selfish reasons on my part. It would not be fair to the boys, the assistant coaches and community. My focus has to be on the education of our students and the day-to-day operation of the high school. I can’t put myself coaching baseball above being building principal,” said Rapp. “And education from what it was 20 years ago is completely different. That’s before COVID-19 threw a wrench into this year and causing us all to figure out different scenarios for next year.”
While the unknown remains for next year, the previous 23 have been for Rapp “a dream and something I wouldn’t trade”.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for 23 years to work with a lot of young men, meet a lot of great people and compete against a lot of great coaches. Wins and losses are important, but not as much as the responsibility for teaching lessons in life,” he said. “Coaching is an extension of education in the classroom, and we are teaching not just baseball skills, but we are teaching about hard work, how to face adversity and overcome it, and how to take on difficult challenges. All I’ve ever wanted to do was be in education and coach. I’ve been very fortunate.”
While making men into winners with life lessons, he won a lot of baseball games with the Senators.
His education duties resulted in a four-year break from 2004 thru 2007, but Rapp racked up a career record of 343 victories and 189 losses.
The Senators’ sole Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship in his tenure was a quarter-century ago (1995), as West won three district championships in 1994, 1995 and 2013.
With Rapp, West was a four-time SOC II runner-up, a 10-time sectional champion, and the 1995 regional runner-up.
His 2002 team won 18 consecutive contests, and came within an eyelash of another district championship.
Rapp remembers those two clubs particularly well — or at least two particular games.
“In 1995, we beat the number-one team in the state in Johnstown and we played Paint Valley in the regional final. Had the lead in the fifth inning, but Paint Valley came back to win and then won the state. We were two innings away from the state tournament. Then we played Zane Trace in 2002 when they were number-one in the state. We were up 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and the count was three balls and two strikes. Kid hits a grand slam and two weeks later is drafted by the Florida Marlins. I could have rolled the dice and walked him and then get the third out with the game going into extra innings. But we made the decision to pitch to him,” recalled the coach. “I think about those two games a lot.”
He also reflected upon this past spring, as the season never took place — thanks to the Ohio High School Athletic Association officially cancelling all 2020 spring sports seasons on April 20 in response to the coronavirus threat.
“There’s two ways to look at that decision, and believe me it was very difficult to not be able to play this year. There were no lives lost in the county and we’re all undefeated. But I was disappointed for our seniors who had worked so hard, were in the new hitting facility every day, and were ready to go right up until the shutdown was announced. We had a few four-year starters that really thought this year was their year,” said Rapp. “I hate it for the entire team, but especially the seniors. It’s something that’s never happened before and who knows what our season could have been.”
Thus, as it turned out, arguably Rapp’s most distinguished individual honor capped off his decorated career.
Last June, he was inducted into the Southeast District Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
While Rapp “felt very honored” by his induction, he cited “the body of work of the entire program over 23 years” as the reason for it.
“I owe that to a lot of people involved in the program,” he said. “Our assistant coaches were knowledgeable and great to work with, and our players worked hard and sacrificed and bought into what the coaching staff was teaching them. The success is a tribute to everybody.”
The best thing about the SEDBCA induction, though, was Rapp’s father Kenneth seeing his son being honored.
Kenneth Rapp passed away in mid-December at the age of 94 — and was a former principal and coach in the Washington-Nile School District himself.
“That meant a lot to me for him to see me get inducted. Like it was meant to be this way,” said the younger Rapp. “After the games, I would always go home and call him and let him know how the games went. I am following in his footsteps now, but he was my number-one supporter, so it meant a lot for us to share that moment that day.”
But now, Rapp steps out of the coach’s box — and into the principal’s office at West.
“I’m ready to get out (of baseball) and it’s time to move on, but I’ve been a blessed man for 23 years to be able to coach baseball at Portsmouth West High School. The administration, the coaches and the parents have been so supportive for so long,” he said. “It’s been a privilege to have coached so many boys.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved