A new Pack leader

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ryan Whitney, Washington’s new baseball coach, poses for a picture inside the WHS gymnasium. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

The fourth time’s a charm? That’s what Washington High School is hoping as the school has hired former West Craven skipper Ryan Whitney to be its fourth baseball coach in four years.
While most programs struggle to find a good manager, the Pam Pack has had the opposite problems, as its hires have been too good.
Washington inked Darin Vaughan in 2006, and after three solid years on the bench, he left to become a scout for MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays. Vaughan’s mid-winter departure left Washington to seek out Vaughan’s assistant Travis Rogerson to take the reigns, which he agreed to do for one season.
Once that season ended, the Pam Pack felt it had secured the position when it hired Matt Burnett from Southern Lee High School. A good baseball man, Burnett came in and said and did all the right things as he led Washington to a 12-13 record and a trip back to the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
While Burnett seemed happy in Washington, he was overwhelmed when he received an offer to coach at Myers Park in Charlotte, a bigger 4-A school in the western part of the state that was closer to his family. It was a pitch he had to swing it.
Burnett left in mid-August, which left Allison Jones, Washington’s athletic director and girls’ basketball coach, in a fullcourt press to find a baseball coach that taught history with only a few weeks to go before the start of the school season. After meeting with several candidates, Jones felt she hit a home run with Whitney.
“We found out pretty late in the summer that we would be searching for a new baseball coach,” Jones said. “We started the search and had several good candidates, but we were very fortunate that Coach Whitney was interested in Washington. He comes to us by the way of West Craven, so we were very familiar with his teams. He came highly recommended by a lot of coaches in the area.”
Whitney graduated from West Craven where he was a pitcher and an outfielder, then went on to play at Barton College where he was a left-handed pitcher.
Upon graduating, Whitney went on to be an assistant coach at Kinston High School for three years before going back to coach his alma-matter for five seasons.
The 31-year old Whitney said that he decided to leave West Craven because he wanted to seek a new challenge.
“Sometimes you need a little change or to try something new,” Whitney said. “West Craven was my alma-matter and I have a lot of good things to say about that place and I will always hold it dear, but sometimes there is a time to move on and try something new.”
Whitney said he was attracted to Washington because it has some similarities to West Craven and a lot of good people around its baseball program.
“It is a similar set up to West Craven, the student body is composed of a lot of good kids,” Whitney said. “From what I can tell and from word of mouth, there seems to be a good system of support here. The administration really made me feel welcome when I came here. They made me feel like this is a place that I wanted to be and that they wanted me here.”
The school certainly wanted Whitney to come to the Pam Pack, now it is just hoping he will stick around for a while. Whitney is well aware of the situation he is coming into and said that he has no plans of going anywhere anytime soon.
“I didn’t take this job with the anticipation of being here for one year,” Whitney said. “I took this job to approach it with intensity and desire and with the goal to give all the effort I have whether it’s five years of 50 years. The only promise I can make anybody is that as long as I’m here I will give everything I have to see this program do as well as possible.”
Whitney said the key to doing well is to field a team that is well versed in the fundamentals.
“I believe in the finer points of baseball,” Whitney said. “You have to play good defense. I don’t want to say it begins and ends on the pitcher’s mound, but the pitcher’s performance is very important; but at the same time nobody has ever won a game by not scoring. We want to make a commitment to the offense side of the baseball be we also want to understand that playing a role and doing the little things can often make the difference between winning and losing.”