Atta Baby: Big Coach

Jeff Harrison Special to The Leader Published:

Four hundred victories is a pretty impressive milestone for a coach to achieve in any sport.

It pales in comparison, however, to the impact Randy Larrick has had on his players during 22 years (and counting) as head softball coach of the John Glenn Lady Muskies.

Larrick, better known simply as “Big Coach”, has done so by combining his knowledge of the game he so dearly loves with something a lot of coaches forget about ­­­­— he makes softball fun.

All you have to do is attend one John Glenn softball game and you’ll realize his ability to do just that has been every bit as important as the Xs and Os of the game in turning the Lady Muskies into one of the most respected and successful teams in the entire Eastern District.

At somewhere around 6 ft. 7, Larrick at first glance is an imposing figure in the third base coach’s box, but upon closer inspection, he’s more of a “gentle giant”.

In fact, while everyone calls him “Big Coach”, his approach to the game is more like that of a big kid and we doubt there’s anything in the world he’d rather be doing than coaching softball (working in the vegetable garden might rank a close second, however).

We’ve also witnessed first-hand having covered the Muskies countless times including both trips to the OHSAA State Tournament (2003 and 2010) that while he gets excited (the understatement of the century) when his girls are victorious, no one takes the losses harder – sometimes to the point where he’s some overcome by emotion that he has had trouble finding the right words to say.

With Larrick becoming only the 15th coach in OHSAA history to reach the 400-victory milestone (he’s now 400-199), who better to describe what he’s meant to the players than his long-time trusted assistant Steve Cowgill and some of the girls he’s coached.

“He’s such a good motivator,” Cowgill offered. “He’s always positive with the kids and he’s more of a teacher than a taskmaster. He exhibits a lot of patience…he’s not one to lose faith in them when something bad happens.

“He lives and dies with them out there,” Cowgill continued. “Watching him bounce from third to home when a runner is heading to the plate is worth the price of admission.”

Cowgill said Larrick also isn’t afraid to buck tradition at times.

“He will use a younger player who deserves to play at the varsity level, even over a senior,” he said, “and you don’t see that a lot in high school.”

Over the years, Cowgill has heard a couple of phrases uttered countless times by Larrick.

“His two staples are ‘believe in yourself’ and ‘atta baby’,” he laughed.

His favorite Larrick memory?

“It would have to be at the first state semifinal game back in 2003 when we had a runner coming in to score and he went into his war-whoop atta-baby with his arms flailing and he went down right there on the field,” Cowgill smiled.

Cowgill, who by the way will bid adieu to his John Glenn assistant’s post after this season to assume a similar position at Muskingum University, says one of his biggest honors was being asked to present Larrick for induction into the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association back in 2005.

A few minutes talking with just about any former Lady Muskie and it’s easy to see how Larrick impacted them.

“He was super-easy to play for,” said Kelsey Tom Hursey (JGHS Class of 2006). “He wants to get the best out of you and he’s very enthusiastic and encouraging in doing it.

“When you play for him,” she added, “you want to get out there and do well for him because he works so hard for you. That’s one of the reasons I think his softball program is so successful.”

“The thing about ‘Big Coach’ is his excitement makes you want to play for him,” echoed Kristyn Heagen (JGHS Class of 2008). “He’s one of the best motivators…he makes you love softball and you know he wants you to succeed.

“I still remember in my junior year when I got a hit and Logan (Hursey) scored and he came running over and picked me up right there at first base,” Heagen laughed. “He hasn’t lost any of his passion for the game after all these years and as a player, you can see that.

“In college,” said the Muskingum University stalwart, “it’s more like your job because you’re always being pushed, but he didn’t push you like that….you were still allowed to have fun playing the game.”

From the standpoint of credentials, Larrick’s numbers are impressive, but none moreso than the fact that upwards of 20 former Lady Muskies have gone on to play college softball.

Larrick-led John Glenn teams have won:

-10 Muskingum Valley League titles (97, 98, 00, 03, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10);

-12 Division II Sectional crowns (97, 98, 99, 00, 01, 03, 04, 05, 07, 08, 10, 11);

-10 Division II District championships ((97, 98, 99, 00, 03, 04, 05, 07, 10, 11);

- 4 Division II Regional runner-up finishes (97, 04, 05, 07);

- 2 Division II Regional championships (03, 10), leading to two state tournament appearances (JG lost to Mantua Crestwood in the ’03 semifinals and to Poland Seminary in ’10).

He’s won “Coach of the Year” honors eight in the MVL and four times in the Eastern District and the 1969 JGHS graduate was inducted into his alma mater’s Athletic Hall of Fame back in 1999.

Despite all of his success, it doesn’t appear Larrick has any plans to hang ‘em’ up any time soon (we hear the junior high group coming up is an impressive bunch), and to him being around for many years to come, we simply say, “Atta baby, Big Coach!”

(Jeff Harrison is sports editor of The Daily Jeffersonian. He can be reached via e-mail at jharrison@daily-jeff.com)

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