Coaching a community

April 5, 2012

By Christina Lords

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John Martin happy to take the helm of Liberty’s baseball squad 

By Greg Farrar John Martin, the new Liberty High School baseball coach, works his team in the gym while it’s snowing outside March 13 on the Patriots’ baseball field.

While he always had an interest in the game, Liberty High School coach John Martin never anticipated he’d end up dedicating the past 20 or so years to coaching it.

“What I really want to do is try to produce and mentor these kids so they’re leaders and young men coming out of the school first,” he said. “Baseball is really secondary. It’s a way to teach life skills, like teamwork, decision-making and ethics. I want to develop them as people first.”

Martin returns to Liberty after working for a three-year stint under coach Glen Walker, a former Liberty head coach himself, at Auburn Mountainview High School.

“I’m kind of a local fixture,” Martin joked. “That’s part of the reason why I’m here. The environment I was in at Mountainview was really good. Coach Walker is just a super good friend of mine, and I love working with him in baseball. Probably the only job that would have gotten me to come back to this area was this one.”

Liberty High School athletic director Stark Porter made the announcement in September that Martin was hired to be the Patriots’ new baseball coach. He replaces Steve Darnell, who directed Liberty to a 6-8 record last season. The Patriots were knocked out in the first round of the KingCo Conference 3A tournament in 2011.

Martin was an assistant varsity coach at Liberty through the 2001 to 2008 seasons. He was on the staff when Liberty won its 3A state title — with the help of future Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, of the San Francisco Giants — in 2003.

Martin has also coached summer select baseball teams.

“I’ve enjoyed being an assistant and learning as much as I can,” he said. “I’m a consummate learner from a number of people and sources. I hadn’t thought about head coaching, so when the opportunity came up to come back here and interview, I really had to think about what I really wanted to do.”

Martin, who has lived in the area since 1978, had two children go through the Liberty athletic program, including his son, Troy, who signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2005.

“Liberty High School is my community,” Martin said. “It’s where I’ve been affiliated with as a parent, as a coach and as a fan since the mid ‘90s. I appreciate a lot of people in this community.”

Liberty’s seniors on the team were freshmen the last time Martin was around, and he said he’s ready to tackle new challenges with a new team.

“The kids are all new to me, but the surroundings and the administration is familiar,” he said. “Short-term goals for me include installing a little bit of a different system than what everybody is probably used to and get everyone on the same page as a team so we can get a rhythm going.”

He said he views the team’s strong pitching staff and defense as this year’s squad key to success, but for the long term, instilling positive life skills will be what makes the program a success throughout his time at the helm.

“From a baseball standpoint, it’s not really about execution, because different people have different skill sets,” he said. “God made some of us one thing and some of us another. The real goal is to teach the kids work ethic and commitment, hard work, teamwork and those sort of intangible things that make a team a team.”

As a site facilities manager at The Boeing Co. for the past 26 years, Martin said taking on a leadership role within the team felt like a natural next step.

“I’ve been an assistant for 12 years, so for me, it’s like, ‘Do you want the additional load of being the full-grown leader?’” he said. “In my regular job, that’s what I do: I lead teams of people. I’d love to lead the kids in my local community and see if I can make a difference.”

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