By Medicine Hat News on November 9, 2019.
Nolan Rattai is used to turning double plays on the baseball diamond.
Less than three months removed from the end of his on-field career, he’s already turned one in the office.
The 23-year-old was named head coach of the Medicine Hat Mavericks Friday, adding to the role he gained as assistant general manager in August.
“Getting this now is amazing, I’m so grateful and I’m really excited,” said Rattai, a three-time league all-star during his time in a Mavs uniform. “It’s definitely doable, we wouldn’t be doing this if it was something that’s never been done before or impossible.”
Owner and general manager Greg Morrison had worked with Rattai in looking for someone to replace Tom Vessella, but the candidates they short-listed didn’t pan out for one reason or another. One is even rumoured to wind up with a different team in the Western Canadian Baseball League, which could make for an entertaining story next summer.
Suddenly, Morrison realized the best fit for the job was sitting right in front of him.
“It was about two weeks (ago),” said Morrison, who was the franchise’s first home-grown head coach when he did the job for four years after taking over as owner. “We were going through it, we said this last guy we agreed if this isn’t the dude, Nolan’s going to be the guy.
“You don’t always have to be looking outward to be thinking there’s something better.”
In Rattai, Morrison gets a coach with a calm demeanour whose skills should transfer well. The only knocks against him are age and experience, of which he has little: Rattai coached the short-lived Medicine Hat Majestics in 2017 but otherwise has been playing, finishing his college career at Columbia College in Missouri.
“I think a big challenge will be my age, with players being close to my age. So more for me is I have to do everything the right way, show a good example to get these players to get to respect me,” said Rattai. “I know that’s not going to come in the first day but doing the right thing and showing these guys that I’m here to help this team as much as I can, eventually I’ll get that respect.”
Morrison, whose time as a professional player has kept him a key figure on the sidelines anyhow, should help to alleviate any issues.
The Mavericks will return pitching coach and fellow ex-player Jared Libke, while work on establishing the rest of the roster is picking up steam.
Knowing he’ll be the guy managing the talent he brings in figures to make decisions straightforward for Rattai on the management side. He has one less variable to determine whether a player will be a good fit.
“There’s definitely different ways to get players,” he said. “We’re going to do as much as we can to get the best players here, and I look forward to it.”
Medicine Hat will play in the WCBL’s East Division next year following two Saskatchewan-based teams taking a leave of absence. The Mavs went 30-26 in 2019 before losing in the first round of playoffs.