By Sean Rooney on November 15, 2018.
Jared Libke thought he was done being a Medicine Hat Maverick.
He won’t be toeing the rubber at Athletic Park anymore, but he is coming back.
The Saskatoon native will be the Mavericks’ new pitching coach next summer.
“I’m super excited,” said Libke from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. “Med Hat’s a second home to me. Just getting to be a part of the organization again is very exciting.”
Team owner and general manager Greg Morrison was on the lookout for a replacement for Kyle Swannack, an assistant coach for four of the past five seasons who’s taken a job with Notre Dame Academy and is also starting up a baseball and training facility in town.
In Libke, he’s got a graduated hurler eager to pass on his knowledge of the game to up-and-coming college players.
“I’m going to dive head-first into this coaching position,” said Libke, who played three seasons with the Mavs as a starting righthander. “I’m trying to finish school, start adult life.
“Hopefully we can repeat, get the fans out and see some more championships in the city.”
After two years in a row of falling out in the second round of playoffs, Libke and the Mavs went all the way as he capped his career with a Western Major Baseball League championship. The fifth and final game of the championship series was one he’ll never forget, nor will many of the other 2,500 or so fans in attendance who witnessed the home side beat Regina.
“That is still probably the best night of my life,” he said. “We did it last year and I don’t know if a lot of guys would admit it, but having fans there is a big plus. We sold out and there were over 2,000 fans there, it makes you lean towards coming to Med Hat.”
Chasing that feeling again may be impossible, but Libke would love to have the same sort of success.
“I think it’s a different feeling (the second time winning a title), I don’t think you can compare the two,” he said. “You’ve just got to enjoy the ride.”
The Mavs previously announced Andrew Murphy won’t be back as head coach either. Tom Vessella, a longtime minor league player and now college coach from California, will lead the way with returning assistant Fehlandt Lentini.
Libke figures he won’t have much input into the roster, leaving the bulk of the recruiting to Morrison and the other coaches.
What he does hope is that there are enough arms to go around. The league, which will be renamed the Western Canadian Baseball League next summer, has added eight games to the regular season schedule (now 56 games instead of 48 per team) and decreased the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-three.
That has Libke wondering about how he’ll manage the pitchers.
“We’re going to have to save arms as much as you possibly can until the end,” he said. “I’m looking at a six-man rotation just to limit innings.”