Skyhawk skipper cites family reasons for resignation

Family comes first, baseball comes second.

Southridge baseball head coach Joe Monahan accepted the same position at West Linn High last week not because he was on the West Linn youth baseball board for 15 years or his relatives live there.

In truth, Monahan never anticipated leaving the program. As the rookie head coach of a Skyhawk team that took third in the Metro League and roared to the 6A state semifinals, Monahan was more than content coaching at Southridge for the long-term and building on last year's momentum.

However, the needs of his 16-year-old daughter, who will attend West Linn High in the fall, and the desires of his family outweighed the personal inclination to remain the Skyhawks' skipper. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Former Southridge baseball coach Joe Monahan, seen here with David Knudsen during OIBA action, took the head coaching job at West Linn on Friday.

Monahan assumed the West Linn position last Friday and then had to break the tough news to his Skyhawk players, who he'd helped foster during the spring. He addressed each player individually during their end-of-summer exit interviews then spoke to the team collectively.

“It's very hard to leave my boys over at Southridge, I'll tell you that,” said Monahan. “I felt like I was all-in from day one, and the players went all-in as well. We worked hard going back to last winter to right up to the last pitch of the summer. Whether it was practice or a game, these guys worked incredibly hard, and that's all you can ask for.”

Monahan had a budding season for the record books, molding a talented but enigmatic team into coming a half inning away from the 6A state championship. The Skyhawks beat Lake Oswego 2-1 in an epic quarterfinal match-up before losing to Clackamas, 6-5, in nine innings in the semis. A more disciplined, extra focused Southridge squad won 18 games under Monahan's guidance and returned to the high society of 6A after a down 2012 campaign.

“It was a dream season in terms of taking our talent level and our effort level and putting it all together,” said Monahan. “Looking back on the long journey and seeing all the success we had both in the spring and the summer, it just makes it all worthwhile, especially when you have excellent young men who do the right things on and off the field.”

The West Linn job was the only one Monahan said he'd ever consider leaving Southridge for, but that didn't relieve the sting of saying goodbye to his Skyhawk squad.

“It was a real struggle,” said Monahan. “It was real hard because even though I live in West Linn and have great ties to West Linn...I was welcomed into the Southridge program by the players, parents and administration. I was settling in nicely there.”

Monahan said he never expected West Linn's previous head coach Kevin Mills to resign, considering Mills had only been a Lion for two years. But, when Mills accepted West Linn High's offer to become the school's athletic director, it left a vacancy. Monahan didn't apply for the job initially. He waited until after the deadline to throw his hat into the ring, two days before the end of the summer to guarantee there were no team distractions or hearsay floating around the clubhouse.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Joe Monahan helped Southridge reach the 6A state semifinals this season and will try to right the ship at West Linn.

A refined team

Monahan leaves behind a team he believes is a little more refined and faster than the previous group. The now former Skyhawk skipper said the next coach will have a great pitcher with Parker Stidham back in the mix and other players like Brannon Raines, David Knudsen and Jacob Calo, who filled in nicely. They won't have Reza Aleaziz or maybe as many extra base hits as the 2013 squad, but Monahan didn't leave the cupboard bare.

“I see a team that looks a little less threatening, but I still felt we could really compete,” said Monahan. “He's going to inherit guys that do the little things a lot better.”

Monahan takes over a West Linn program that's won a combined four Three Rivers contests the past two years and struggled to find traction against perennial powers like Lake Oswego and Clackamas. Monahan thinks his comprehension of the West Linn youth league and visibility in the community will help get him up to speed in the winter. He's not overly familiar with the Lions' current roster but says West Linn was a young team last year that lost a lot of close ball games.

Whether he'll have the same caliber of talent pool to draw from that he did in Beaverton remains to be seen. For now, Monahan is happy being a family man before anything else.

“We'll have to see where we're at and see what we have,” said Monahan. “We'll just focus on doing the little things right, just like you need to do in this game of baseball to be successful. We'll build student-athletes to be better people in the community.”

There's a good chance Southridge and West Linn will play each other in the preseason next year, which the current Skyhawk players good-naturedly taunted their ex-head coach about.

“They said, 'Hope you're ready to get beat',” laughed Monahan. “I told them I wouldn't expect anything less from them than to compete their tails off because that's what they did for me.”

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