Anytime Scott Erickson has to remember the winning tradition he's expected to continue, all he needs to do is look at West York's home baseball field at Sunset Lane Park.
Hanging on top of the fenced backstop are two banners with the names of every player who was part of the Bulldogs' back-to-back state championship teams in 2012 and 2013.
Tasked with replacing Roger Czerwinski, the coach who turned West York baseball into the cream of the York-Adams crop during his seven-year stint, Erickson is essentially being asked to step into shoes that can't be completely filled.
But Erickson knew that as soon as he applied for the position. One of the first things he did was Google the history of the program to get a full understanding of just what he was getting himself into. What he found was countless titles at practically every level.
Still, none of that turned off the former assistant coach at Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland. Actually, it was a task he was more than up to taking on. He's poised to make sure that the regime change won't signal a decline in the program's success.
"(I plan) to keep the same thing going," he said during Saturday's York-Adams League spring sports media day. "I don't plan on changing anything. Keep winning and keep the success here."
Hired back in early November, Erickson took little time to get to know his players, making sure they understood that he wasn't going to accept anything but the best out of them, just like Czerwinski, who left West York to become the athletic director for Manheim Township School District.
He immediately got his team in the weight room, going through a weightlifting program three days a week and doing pre-school, morning hitting and bullpen sessions. Then after school, while most teams are restricted to the confines of their high school gyms, Erickson has gotten his team time in at PeoplesBank Park, home of the York Revolution, where the facilities are several steps above those of the high school.
So, if anything, based on his offseason winter programs, he's not looking to just emulate the success that West York had under Czerwinksi, but even surpass it, if that's even possible.
He's taking over a Bulldogs team which lost a couple key players from last year's team who were also part of at least one, if not both of the state championship teams. Outfielder Brett Kinneman and middle infielder Cash Gladfelter both graduated and are continuing their playing careers in college, with Kinneman at NCAA Division I North Carolina State and Gladfelter at D-II Shippensburg.
But, he'll also take over a team that will have a core group of senior leaders returning that has spent all offseason with a chip on its collective shoulder after being eliminated in the first round of the District 3-AAA playoffs against Daniel Boone last season, 19-6, in extra innings.
The 13-run outburst in the top of the ninth inning was one that the returning players had to chew on all summer, fall and winter, using it as motivation going into this season. In a way, that could be the biggest X-factor in Erickson's favor.
Despite that early exit from the district tournament, West York still enters the 2016 season as reigning Y-A League Division II and Y-A playoff champions and with a target firmly planted on its back. That's what happens when you win five of the last six D-II crowns and three of the last four playoff crowns. But, in his not-shying-away-from-expectations persona, Erickson sees that as just another positive for the Bulldogs, who finished 16-5 overall in 2015.
"Anytime you have success, there's always going to be a target on your back," he said. "So, coming in, I know that's what they did last year and I know we're going to see everyone's No. 1 and No. 2, pitching-wise, and we're going to be ready to go. That's just something we're going to have to face and we're going to deal with it game-by-game."
For Erickson and the players alike, the offseason has seemed extra long. From the players' perspective, Monday's first official practice of the season couldn't come quick enough so they can officially move on from last year's disappointing ending, while Erickson has anxiously anticipated his first season as West York baseball coach.
"I'm excited to get going," he said. "I'm ready to go for the season. We've had offseason workouts that have gone really well, so I'm just ready to go."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org