Dave Seibert agreed to fill in as head baseball coach at Western Maryland College in 1981 thinking he would hold the position for a year until the real coach returned from sabbatical. Throughout the next 38 years the school's name would change, but the baseball coach would remain the same -- until now.
In February, Seibert announced that the 2018 season guiding the McDaniel College baseball team would be his last.
His replacement, Grant Neary, comes to Westminster, Md., from the New Jersey Institute of Technology hoping his tenure also lasts much longer than one year. Based on the program's history -- this will be just the fourth head coach since 1963 -- it looks as though the odds are in his favor.
"It's exciting and will be a really good challenge for me," said Neary, who spent six years as an assistant at NJIT and helped the program achieve its first winning season at the NCAA Division I level in 2015 along with four 20-win campaigns. "This has been a place with a lot of stability in the program, and I was very interested in a place that treats its coaches like that. To see someone who has been the face of the program for such a long time, I'm honored to be chosen as the one to continue to build upon the previous success and also hope to take things to the next level as well."
Seibert announced his retirement in February, but continued to hit the recruiting trail and said he has a dozen or so freshmen coming in to solidify a young roster that loses only three senior starters and returns virtually its entire pitching staff. Seibert said he will reach out to Neary and make himself available to help ease the transition and answer any questions the new coach has.
The Green Terror finished the 2018 season 11-19 overall and 4-14 in the Centennial Conference, but McDaniel is just two years removed from a record-setting 31-10 campaign.
"Almost everybody will be back," Seibert said. "There is a pretty good nucleus of kids coming back with a good amount of experience. The biggest problem the past couple of years has been the pitching. They were all inexperienced and young two years ago, but now they are all juniors and seniors. It should be a real veteran staff next year, but the Centennial Conference is a really tough league."
It was during that memorable 2016 season that Seibert recorded his 500th career victory -- not bad for an assistant football coach who was hired to lead the baseball program despite having no baseball coaching experience. In addition to his baseball duties, Seibert served as a football assistant for 20 years -- 14 as the defensive coordinator -- and taught several classes in the physical education department.
"I was first hired full-time in 1981," he said. "At that time I was a teacher in the physical education department, served as intramural director for five years, was an assistant football coach, the head baseball coach and handled any other duties assigned by the athletic director. I wore like five hats, but was extremely happy to do be working full time, especially starting out."
At the beginning, many of Seibert's baseball coaching counterparts were not full-time employees of their schools, so the extra duties were worth it for him. Having so many responsibilities is part of the charm or working at a Division III institution and was a big reason Seibert stayed at McDaniel for his entire professional career.
"I don't think I would have liked being at the Division I level and just coaching," Seibert said. "I enjoyed coaching baseball, enjoyed teaching and the other parts of the job and really enjoyed football until I got a little burnt out at the end. I got to coach both the sports that I played, so that was really neat, but at some point coaching the two sports just got to be too much."
As Seibert, 62, reflects on his time at McDaniel, he talks about fond memories, such as winning the Middle Atlantic Conference championship in just his fourth year when the conference had 25 teams, earning his 500th career victory and setting the school record for victories with 31 in 2016. But it doesn't end there.
"There are a lot of positive things that happened," he said, "but what's really special is when you hear back from kid who played for you -- I've heard from a lot of them since my announcement -- and they tell you how much they appreciate their years here. To hear back from kids you coached so many years ago -- and to hear so many positive things they have to say about what the experience meant to them and how they apply it in their careers and family life -- is very rewarding to me."
Neary prepares to take the reins at McDaniel July 1 looking to have a similar impact on his players. He said he is eager to be a head coach for the first time.
"I had a chance to meet with every member of the team during the interview process and they seemed very dedicated and hungry to take the program to the next level and to be part of growing the program in a positive direction," he said. "They seem ready and excited. I've gotten a number of text messages, calls and emails with them expressing how much they are ready to work and are looking forward to getting started.
"It's exciting to me that they are ready to embrace a new coach. Sometimes that doesn't happen. There's going to be a learning curve for them and for me, but for them to embrace me and want to move in the right direction is exciting and gets me going. It's going to be a really good opportunity."
Photo Credit: David Sinclair/McDaniel College