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John Schaly, ABCA Hall of Famer: A leader not only on, but off the field as well

Steven Shrenkel

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On Friday (Jan. 5), in Indianapolis, Ashland University baseball coach John Schaly achieved head coaching immortality.

Schaly was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in a moment that was special in more ways than one. Schaly joined his late father, Don, as just the second father-son duo inducted in the Hall of Fame.

“It means a lot to me to be associated with something as big as that with my dad,” Schaly said. “It makes me really proud and I know he would be too.”

Baseball has always been a huge part of Schaly’s life thanks to his father. His influence on his son started at a very young age and continued on when he played under his father at Marietta College.

The Schalys were also the second father-son combination to each win 1,000 games at four-year universities.

“He’s the main reason I got into coaching,” Schaly said. “80 or 90 percent of the things I do I got from him.”

These influences led Schaly to immediately know his destined career path from a young age.

“I just knew at a young age that I wanted to stay in the game,” Schaly said. “I knew all along that this is what I wanted to do since I grew up in a college dugout.”

Schaly is going into his 20th season as Ashland’s head coach. He has 726 wins to his name and over 1,089 for his total career. Schaly is also the winningest coach in AU history.

He credits the players for the success and tries to bring the same connection that he and his dad had to the team.

“I feel the team is an extension of our family,” Schaly said. “It’s what keeps me going. It keeps me young and energetic.”

Adam Schaly, just like his father John, understands the importance of the team feeling like a family. Schaly grew up just like his father, immersed into baseball at an early age.

“I was always at the baseball field growing up,” Schaly said. “I was always around the game. It’s just how we both grew up and bonded.”

That connection is something that him and his dad has tried to share with the players, just like John and his dad.

“Just recently, a player got a little sick and had to go to the Mansfield hospital,” Schaly said. “Dad and I went to the hospital to check in. It’s little things like this that show you care and the players a part of the family.”

Schaly said his dad tries to make the team seem like a family. He makes sure players know they aren’t just a pawn in the system, but individuals who are extremely important to the organization.

One of the former players at the ceremony was Ashland University Assistant baseball coach Aaron Hilt. He understands what it’s like to be a part of the baseball family that Schaly created.

“He (Schaly) was the main reason why I chose Ashland,” Hilt said. “He’s the main reason why a lot of recruits come to Ashland.”

Hilt played at Ashland before being welcomed back into an assistant coach role. Hilt said he enjoys being able to have such a close relationship with the coach where he even has dinner with his family.

Hilt always felt that he always had a personable relationship with Schaly and that he was a great leader not only on but off the field as well.

“He’s a great leader and he always found a way to win no matter what it took,” Hilt said. “He’s also such a personable guy where he has an open-door policy and cares about his players.”

For Hilt, Schaly truly cares about the people in the organization. Hilt said Schaly helped him during one of his darkest times in where he was unsure of where to go in his academic career.

“I wouldn’t be where I was at today if it wasn’t for him helping me,” Hilt said. “He went the extra mile to sit there and help me get back on the right track.”

Schaly had a lot of time to reflect over the induction as he found out about it well in advance of the actual event.

Due to him being on the ABCA board of directors, Schaly found out about the induction class at last January’s convention. The convention is a time-honored tradition for Schaly and many other coaches across the country.

“Any sort of baseball coach can join the association and come to the convention,” Schaly said. “We had over 6,000 coaches there during my induction.”

Seeing all of the familiar faces that had grown under Schaly at the ceremony for support is what made his coaching career completely worth it to him.

“Seeing what former players have become that came to the banquet is the rewarding part for me,” Schaly said. “To see what great husbands, fathers, and leaders in their community; that is why I continue to coach.”

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