Mound conference

Dan Poland addresses his Oak Hill Red Devil baseball players during a conference at the mound during an earlier season. Poland recently resigned as the Oak Hill High head baseball coach and a Red Devil assistant football coach. On Tuesday night, the Fayette County Board of Education accepted those resignations, as well as approving Poland’s move into an assistant principal position at OHHS.

Dan Poland might ponder what he and his players missed out on.

But he also knows he’s on the cusp of an exciting new challenge.

Poland, a Pennsylvanian who has spent the majority of his professional career in West Virginia, recently resigned as head baseball coach and assistant football coach at Oak Hill High School. On Tuesday night, the Fayette County Board of Education accepted those resignations while approving Poland’s hiring as an assistant principal at OHHS. That move into administration caused Poland to relinquish his coaching jobs.

“I’m 40 now; I’ve been really, really blessed,” Poland said in a recent interview. “I started doing this right out of college. I got my first head coaching job up in Pennsylvania.”

Fast forward to today.

“Everything kind of aligned,” he said. “I was going to come back and help Money (new OHHS head football coach David Moneypenny) do football. I enjoyed that, hanging out with Frank (Spangler) every day. This (administrator’s post) just opened up, and I applied for it and ended up getting it. It’s something I really have wanted to do for a couple years now. (With everything going on) it kind of seemed like a good time.”

Poland recalled a conversation he had last summer with veteran Wyoming East coach Ron “Chief” Mayhew. Poland said Mayhew told him, “These coaching jobs are always open. How many chances do you get to be an assistant principal?

“That really stuck with me.”

This past spring would have been Poland’s fourth year on the diamond as head coach at Oak Hill, until Covid-19 stepped in and caused the cancellation of spring sports statewide. It dashed hopes for a possible appearance in the Class AA state tournament for an experienced, talented Red Devil squad.

Of the 2020 campaign that wasn’t, he says, “It was gonna be exciting. ... Every year, I believe that we can go to Charleston. This year was no different than three years ago.

“What we missed out on is, we had a lot of depth this year, we had a lot of 18-year-old men. When you’re not putting 14-year-old kids out there, when you’re putting 18-year-old men out there that are mature. Very little coaching probably would have had to take place this year because they knew everything we already wanted. The Fayetteville guys coming over was an added bonus for us. With those four or five guys coming over, we would have had a really, really deep team.”

Prior to his stint as Oak Hill’s top man in the dugout, Poland served as the Fayetteville High head baseball coach from 2010 to 2016, leading the Pirates to the state tournament in his first year. Before leading the Pirates, Poland was an assistant to Chris Walls at Oak Hill for four years, including during the Red Devils’ state tournament season of 2008.

He has also been coaching girls and boys basketball and football in Fayette County over the years.

Poland offered up his thanks for the many veteran coaches in the area who have given him guidance and friendship over the years. “There are so many awesome coaches in this county.”

While he’s embracing his chance at professional advancement, Poland also admits the thought of remaining for a few more baseball seasons with the Red Devils was tempting. “We’ve got a really good group of juniors sticking around, and our middle school team, the next wave of kids coming through. It’s in a pretty good position here for the long run.

“And (moving to) triple-A, we really looked at that as a really good opportunity for us to show some teams how good we could be.”

With continued upgrades on the baseball facility, as well as more players coming out and getting experience at the feeder level, Poland says, “I think we left it (the program) better for the next guy.”

The good thing for him is that he’ll still be around to follow the progress. “I’m going to enjoy watching them instead of coaching them.”

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