ROSEMOUNT — The movie Trading Places was considered a box office success, and even can be considered a smash.
Now, with two coaches trading places atop the Clay High School baseball program, their goal is of course continuing the winning tradition on the diamond.
That’s because Marc Cottle, the Panthers’ head coach of the past seven seasons, and Kylon Crabtree, Cottle’s key assistant over that same span, are switching Panther posts —with Cottle stepping down to now be Crabtree’s assistant.
Crabtree, a former head coach at Northwest, was recently hired as Clay’s newest baseball coach —as Cottle, who went 97-54 with back-to-back Southern Ohio Conference Division I championships (2019 and 2021) and back-to-back Division IV district runner-up titles (2018 and 2019) — expressed a desire to spend more time with his family, including his son Clay Cottle, who will be playing collegiate baseball at Mount Vernon Nazarene in the spring.
On Tuesday at Clay, both coaches took time to discuss the switcheroo —as both expected the transition, despite a younger Panther squad taking the field for 2022, to be seamless.
Cottle — a 1987 Clay graduate and who was Clay’s pitching coach in the late 1990s under then-head coach Ron Allen — has always been in charge of that important aspect of the game, and will continue in that role.
Crabtree’s father Barry has also served on the Panther staff for the past seven years —and will join his son and Cottle once again next season.
In fact, Cottle said the entire Clay coaching unit will remain intact.
“In terms of the program and the team, our goal is very little to no change. We’re both going to be here, and it’s just a change in titles. A lot of people say ‘I want to spend more time with my family’, but Kylon and I have been together since day one, and I don’t really think there is going to be any change. He (Crabtree) is going to be the head coach and I’ll be the assistant,” said Cottle. “When I would make major decisions, Kylon was in on those decisions. I’m pretty sure going forward I’m going to be in on any major decisions he makes. I’m going to be here, and there’s not a lot of changes from that standpoint. My son Clay is now going to college and playing, and if I was still the head coach, I would feel I would have to be here every second. Kylon has agreed to say that if you need to go up on a Friday and watch him play, go do that.”
“Other than a name change of saying who is the head coach and who is the assistant coach, I see very little changing,” said Crabtree. “Coach Cottle is still going to be in charge of pitching, and offensive and defensive adjustments, everything is going to stay the same. We’ve had a lot of late-night and early-morning conversations and long discussions about things that may happen. Because of those conversations we’ve had, we don’t have to stress about what decisions we’re going to make in a game. We’ve always been on the same page. We’re still going to have those late-night and early-morning conversations like we do. I’ve joked with Coach (Cottle) that the only thing that’s going to change is who gets to talk to the umpire and give him the lineup card before the game.”
Crabtree has been the Panthers’ third-base coach under Cottle, and has largely been an overseer of offensive decisions— along with the positioning of infielders on defense, while Barry Crabtree does the same with the outfielders.
Now, Kylon will be the one making mound visits for pitching changes —as well as taking the lead in communication with umpires, and not to mention media interviews.
The significant decisions, though, will remain a joint effort.
“With that excitement (of being head coach) comes definitely more responsibility. I’ve done both and enjoyed both and definitely feel I am capable of handling either position. It’s almost been like having two head coaches on the same staff,” said Crabtree. “Marc’s always treated me that way, and I am going to treat him the same way. Decisions are going to go through the both of us.”
Although, wins and losses in the record-books will officially be credited to Crabtree.
However, the 2007 Northwest graduate has head coaching experience — for three years from 2012 thru 2014 at his alma mater.
Before that, and before coaching alongside Cottle, he was a Mohawks’ assistant.
Crabtree said the Clay connection first formed when he began teaching in the district —during his time as Northwest’s skipper.
Cottle took over the Panther program in 2015, and the two have been part of at least 10-win seasons in every spring since.
“The last couple of years that I was the head coach at Northwest, I was actually teaching here at Clay. So that got to be a little tougher. When the head coaching position came open (at Clay), Marc and I had talked. He was good with it, and it just was a great time for a transition. So I went from the heading coaching role there to being an assistant here,” said Crabtree. “We’ve been together for seven years and haven’t looked back.”
Indeed they haven’t.
Of his 97 career victories, Cottle has amassed a pair of 19-win campaigns (2018 and 2021) — sandwiched around a 20-triumph mark in 2019.
The Panthers split the SOC I title with Green two years ago (2019)—the last OHSAA baseball campaign prior to this past spring.
Speaking of which, Clay swept through the SOC I and captured all dozen of those tilts —clinching the Panthers’ first outright league title since 2003, and only the fourth conference championship in program history (1980, 2003, 2019, 2021).
The Panthers then rallied past Peebles 8-7, marking Clay’s fourth consecutive (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) sectional championship and 14th all time —with all but four coming starting in the year 2000.
Clay’s last of four district championships came clear back when Cottle graduated in 1987, although he guided the Panthers to that pair of runner-ups (2018 and 2019).
And, Crabtree has been there in the third-base box every step of the way.
“Kylon came in with me seven years ago. We’ve been together as a team. Kylon’s father (Barry) is the main assistant. When we first took over, we had some very good athletes on the basketball side of things, and those same boys played baseball. We did very well with them for a few years. The last four or five years, we’ve had a really good group of kids. It’s been 19 or 20 wins every year over the last four years. Then the 2020 team was the team we had been waiting on forever, but it didn’t happen, and it is what it is. But we’ve been on a good run over the last four or five years,” said Cottle. “Two SOC I championships and right up at the top of the league most of the time.”
For Cottle, who said his 2020 team was perhaps the Panthers’ most talented of all time but unfortunately never got to play because the season was canceled because of the coronavirus threat, these Panthers (2021) playing into late May marked “the most satisfying season that I’ve had”.
Which indeed is quite the way to go out as the head coach, as the tandem trades places — and now turns their attention —to the younger 2022 club.
Hopefully, as Cottle said, it’s the start of another impressive at least seven-year spree.
“The biggest thing I can stress is that the change is very minimal. We’re here for the boys. The change is going to be in the team. We’ve lost a ton of talented players over the last two years,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge going forward in terms of team turnover, but I think we’ll be right there and say seven years from now, I think we can have a very good record like we’ve had over the last seven years.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved