To say that Ashland University head baseball coach John Schaly is a baseball lifer is too simplistic.
Schaly is a baseball coach, a baseball son, a baseball father, a baseball husband and a baseball fan. He also knows baseball history – something he is about to make with his late father, Don, with two more victories.
With two more wins, John Schaly, beginning his 18th season leading Ashland and his 28th season overall as a college baseball head coach, will have 1,000 collegiate victories – and he and his dad will become the first father-son combination to each win at least 1,000 games at a four-year institution. He perhaps will have the opportunity to get win No. 1,000 this weekend with three season-opening games on tap in West Virginia on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 21-22), but weather may delay the opportunity to the annual spring trip to Florida from Feb. 28-March 8.
"It's something you'll look back on, and be proud of, especially because it ties me in with dad," Schaly said. "I just wish he could be here to see it."
Don Schaly was Marietta's head baseball coach for 40 seasons (1964-2003). He won 1,438 games (1,438-329-13 record) at the Division III program, and his tenure included three D-III national titles, seven national runner-up finishes, 18 Midwest Regional championships and 27 Ohio Athletic Conference crowns.
His .812 lifetime winning percentage is second all-time in all NCAA divisions among coaches with at least 10 years at a four-year college, and his win total is eighth on that list. Both the OAC baseball Coach of the Year award and Marietta's baseball field are named after him, and he has been inducted into the Marietta College Athletic, American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and National College Baseball Halls of Fame.
Don Schaly passed away on March 9, 2005. He wore the No. 50 at Marietta – a number which has been retired at the school. John Schaly switched from No. 1 to No. 50 during the 2005 season to honor his father, and still wears it to this day.
John Schaly enters 2015 with the 14th-highest winning percentage (.651) among active Division II head coaches, and his 998 victories is third among that group. All-time in D-II, he is 39th in career winning percentage and 13th in wins.
AU's baseball boss knew he wanted to stay in baseball after playing for his father at Marietta, saying, "I'd have liked to have been a pro player, but I wasn't a good-enough player. I was fortunate. I knew what I wanted to do, get into coaching. Right after I finished my playing career, I started coaching an American Legion team that very year."
Following a collegiate playing career in which he won a national title, was named the 1981 NCAA Division III World Series Most Valuable Player and earned two All-America citations, Schaly became an assistant coach at Iowa State (1982-84), his alma mater (1984-85) and Kentucky (1985-87) prior getting his first head-coaching job at Berry (Ga.). He went 155-91 and made three NAIA playoff appearances in four seasons (1988-91) there – even more impressive when you consider he started the program from scratch.
From Berry, Schaly moved on to St. Leo (Fla.), where, in six seasons (1992-97), he went 208-127 and had the Monarchs as the top-ranked Division II team at one point.
After 10 seasons as a head coach away from Ohio, the opportunity arose to come back to the Buckeye State to guide the Eagles.
"We came back home to Ohio to be around family," Schaly said. "Our oldest daughter (Nikki) was just getting ready to start Kindergarten at that time. We believe in education and family, and how much Ashland believes in a strong athletic program.
"The main drawback is the weather. I would like to have the Florida weather. (I'm) very happy that we've been here, and we've been here for 18 years now."
Schaly has averaged 35.6 wins per season as a collegiate head coach, so with that level of sustained success, 1,000 career wins was going to become a reality with longevity. As for when it began to cross his mind that he might be able to get to quadruple figures as he father had, he said, "It just means I've been around for a long time, honestly. And I'm going to be around many more years. Honestly, I don't think a lot about it. I'm just interested in getting the next win.
"To me, that's something that's a recognition of the dedicated players that we've had over the years, and especially assistant coaches. I've been blessed to have some great assistant coaches over the years. Here at Ashland, it started back with Mark Johnson. Bart Marchetti was here for many, many years, as well as Drew Patton. And now Garry (Rowland), Aaron (Hilt) and Tyler (Gray). To me, that's just a reflection on everybody."
To no one's surprise, whenever the 1,000th win comes, it will be a family affair. Schaly's mother, Sue, will have seen her husband and son both reach the milestone, and his wife, Becky, and his children – Nikki, Adam (a junior pitcher for Stetson, who also wears the No. 50) and Drew – all have been there every step of the way.
"It will be nice," John Schaly. "My wife is probably going to be there, and Drew. My mom is going to be in Florida. She would like to see it. It's something that…we all are a part of it. And I have great support from my family, starting with my mom growing up, and with Becky now. She's had to sacrifice a lot. We're living on a baseball field. Our vacations in the summer are going to baseball tournaments."
There's no doubt that baseball is in John Schaly's blood. Reaching a milestone in coaching in a game near and dear to his heart will make it that much more special.
"The game of baseball, it's a lot of the little things," he said. "Unless you're really a student of the game, you might not really realize what all is happening out the field. I enjoy all the little things, and the strategies involved. And every game's different. No two games are the same. I still see something I've never seen before, and that makes it exciting."
As for the potential of winning at least 440 more games and passing his father in career victories, it could happen. John Schaly isn't about to hang up his spikes anytime soon.
"I plan on coaching for at least another 10 years, if they'll keep me here, if they'll take me," he said. "I enjoy what I'm doing. I'm going to keep doing it as long as I can, and where I enjoy coming to work. The day where I don't feel like I'm giving players 100 percent will be the day that I'm going to hang it up."