Like any father, Atholton baseball coach Kevin Kelly gets a thrill out of watching his son play.
That is why, as Sean — a rising junior at Mt. Hebron High — has started to compete for the Vikings in baseball and wrestling, Kevin has been mulling over the idea of stepping down as the Raiders head coach after 21 years.
Kelly first started seriously considering retirement after the 2009 season, with Sean entering high school. But came back to see through the high school careers of shortstop Kory Britton, catcher Paul Beers and outfielder Jon Thews.
The 2011 team went 19-3 and advanced to the 3A East regional championship game.
Then, in a June 17 story in The Baltimore Sun, Kelly announced that this was his final season as the head coach of the Raiders.
Kelly coached the Atholton JV team for 14 years before taking over the varsity in 1990.
I recently spoke with Kelly about his decision, and got a few more details.
In typical fashion, the humble Kelly downplayed his own impact in leading the Raiders to a 284-173 record over two decades (62.1 winning percentage), a state championship in 2002 and five other appearances in the state final four.
"I feel really blessed over the years to have some of the great players I've had," said Kelly, who will continue in his role as a counselor at the Columbia school. "You come in as a young coach and think that you're going to make a difference, but you've got to have the kids."
Kelly also made it clear that he is not necessarily hanging up his spikes for good, suggesting that he might like to return to coaching once his kids have graduated high school. Daughter Grace, a lacrosse player, is a student at Patapsco Middle School.
"I'm not going to rule that out, if I felt like I wanted to do that," he said. "But I am very comfortable sitting back and watching."
Kelly said that one thing is for certain: if he returns it will be as an assistant.
"I don't think I'd like to come back as a head coach," he said. "When you're youthful you can take on a lot more ... I feel like I'm leaving the program in pretty good shape."
Kelly said that he is very hopeful that the Atholton position he is vacating goes to Jon Dupski, who has been the Raiders JV coach for the last several seasons.
Dupski, a math teacher at Atholton, led Centennial to a state title in 2004 and was named the Baltimore Metro Player of the Year as a lefthanded pitcher that season. He went on to a successful four-year baseball career at Towson, where his player bio page listed his career goal as "to become a Mathematics teacher and coach baseball."