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Ever since his baseball days at West Virginia University ended in 2013, Dan Dierdorff has always had his eyes on coaching.
Dierdorff started his coaching journey with a stint helping out at his alma mater, Northeastern High School, as an assistant. A few years later, Dierdorff found himself back at the college level as an assistant at York College.
Last year, Dierdorff stepped back into the high school ranks as an assistant at Cedar Cliff under Scott Lackey. He figured that a mentor such as Lackey would be a perfect situation for him to learn and grow before finally taking over a program for himself.
As it turns out, Dierdorff was a lot closer to taking over his own program than he imagined.
After learning that Andy Srebroski was stepping down at Northeastern this summer, Dierdorff was encouraged to apply for the opening by his old high school coach, Don Kauffman.
The decision-makers at Northeastern didn't take long to conclude that Dierdorff was the best fit for the Bobcat program. After accepting the position a few weeks ago, Dierdorff was officially named as the program's new head coach at a recent school board meeting.
"Coach Kauffman notified me and helped me get all the paperwork together," said Dierdorff, who is 27. "I was pretty nervous about how it would turn out because you never know what will happen, but I'm just excited to be back at Northeastern again."
Dierdorff's short stint at Cedar Cliff had nothing to do with Lackey or the program. Had it not been for the Northeastern position opening up, Dierdorff was content to spend more years helping out with the Colts.
"Somebody actually asked me the other day why I left Cedar Cliff's program," he said. "And I just said, 'well, when mama comes calling I guess you have to go home.' And I did."
High expectations: Dierdorff led Northeastern to the York-Adams League playoff title in 2009 as a player. Now he has high expectations for the team and himself as a coach.
He feels that there is more than enough talent in the district, so success is less a matter of talent than it is with certain intangibles.
"Every coach I've talked to says that you have to establish a culture," Dierdorff said. "So the question for me is what's that culture going to be like? And I think that we have to set that up at the very beginning of the school year. I want to have some fall practices and introduce a kind of different coaching philosophy than most of these kids are probably used to."
Coming off disappointing season: The Bobcats are coming off a disappointing last-place finish in Division II after a 4-17 campaign, that included a 1-13 record in division play. That's a far cry from Northeastern's baseball past, when it was traditionally one of the stronger programs in York County. The Bobcats even won a PIAA Class 2-A state championship in 2004. Northeastern won a Division II title as recently as 2016.
Part of Dierdorff's plan for a turnaround starts with getting back to the same basic skills and drills that Kauffman and Milt Bushey, both of whom will help Dierdorff next season as assistants, ran back during their days as head coaches.
"It all comes down to skill development," Dierdorff said. "It's about how many ground balls are you going to field during a practice and things like that."
While Dierdorff, who still plays for Mount Wolf in the Central League, is one of the fiercest competitors around, he will ultimately grade his work on something other than wins and losses.
"This is the kid's team," he said. "It's not really my team. I want to teach these kids how to have fun while playing baseball. It's the greatest game around and, if you don't (have fun), you're just going to be miserable the entire time."
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.