MOUNT VERNON — With the end of the recent spring high school sports season came the end to the teaching and coaching career of one lifelong Yellow Jacket.
Doug Savage retired from his teaching position at Mount Vernon Middle School on May 31, ending a career that spanned 35 years. It also ended a coaching career that included 22 years as the Yellow Jackets head baseball coach.
“Thirty-five years is a long time,” said Savage. “I’m still young enough I can enjoy life and do some things on the side. Financially, it really doesn’t behoove you to continue past 35 years. You are maxed out and are almost teaching school for next to nothing. I could have kept going a little longer, but my health hasn’t been the greatest since my shoulder surgery in 2008. I haven’t been 100 percent for a while. ... It was getting to be pretty demanding from a physical standpoint. It was a grind; seasons are long. You go six days a week for the most part, which got to be almost too much for me. That’s kind of what really made my decision.”
It was an extremely tough decision for Savage, who has been active in sports since he was a child growing up in Mount Vernon. His competitiveness helped defined who he was as a player and a coach.
“It is hard because I’ve been coaching or playing for over 50 years,” Savage said. “A certain part of my life is gone and over with, just like there is a certain emptiness when you can’t play anymore. In my case, I went into coaching after I couldn’t play anymore, and I got my fix on being able to compete through coaching both basketball and baseball. Now, that I’m not doing that, it is a lot to get used to. I’ve got mixed feelings; part of me still wants to do it, but part of me realizes it was a good time to leave. We were going out on a high note.”
Savage graduated from Mount Vernon High School and attended Mount Vernon Nazarene University. From there, he began his career in education. He also transitioned into his coaching career.
“Coming out of college, I never really knew what I was going to do,” said Savage. “I played football, basketball and baseball for Mount Vernon High School. I was an all-around athlete back then. I’ve always enjoyed all the sports, and I’ve always enjoyed competing. Whichever sport was in season, that was my favorite one. The same went for coaching.”
Savage may be best known as a baseball coach, but he actually spent more time as a basketball coach, which he also played in college. He coached basketball for 26 years, lastly as the Mount Vernon girls basketball coach for four seasons.
“Baseball was a passion for me,” Savage said. “I really enjoyed working with my assistant coaches over the years. Without them, we would have never been able to accomplish what we were able to. I really liked basketball as well, and I think I did everything I could do. We had a lot of good teams. To pick one over the other, I would say I liked them equally.”
As a coach, Savage always got the most from his teams. They worked hard, which resulted in good results even when the talent may not have been the best. He learned that from the coaches who mentored him over the years.
“Several people along the way made an impact on me,” Savage said. “When I was young and in Little League, my coach was Ron Patrick of South Vernon. He had a major impact on me in baseball. My dad had a big impact on me as well. He was not a typical dad in today’s society; he didn’t critic every move that I made. He just let me enjoy it. He wasn’t a real high or real low type of person. He supported me, but he never forced me. He allowed me to develop my own love for sports and games.
“When I got into middle school, I had a couple of coaches — Guy Van Nostrand and Dale Cornwell — that continued that. Keith Merrin in high school had a big impact on me and kept my love for sports going. They made it fun, and made me competitive. Tom Frazier was my football coach, and he had a big impact on me.
“Then, when I actually started coaching, Dave Moore had a big impact on me as far as how to develop a program and how to handle high school kids. I learned a lot from him. There were a good 10 or 12 people along the way that had an impact on what I’ve become.”
Over the years, Savage amassed over 370 wins on the baseball diamond, won three district championships and numerous Ohio Capital Conference titles. He also won several OCC titles on the hardwood as well. Despite all of the different things his teams accomplished, one doesn’t mean more than the other.
“I don’t see one particular win more important than another,” said Savage. “Like this year when we won the district championship. For this group of kids, that was very, very important and will be an important part of their memories along the way. They don’t remember what Levi Curry or Anthony Castricone or Andrew Thompson did back in the early 2000s, however. I think my biggest achievement was helping each group enjoy their time as a player. Seeing their eyes light up is a great thing.”
Savage had the opportunity to coach his sons, which was special to him. While his sons may not have appreciated it at the time, the memories they have now mean the world to all of them.
“Dads coaching sons. I’m not sure I’m a big believer in that. It takes a special father and a special son in order to get along,” Savage said. “The time that I coached my sons, they probably didn’t like it as much as I did. Sometimes I think I was harder on my own kids than I was on everybody else’s. I really enjoyed it though. We’ve looked back through the scrapbooks, though, and we have some fond memories of my kids playing ball. It seems like it was only yesterday.”
Savage has impacted the lives of many throughout the last 35 years. At the baseball banquet this past spring, many returned to surprise their old coach.
“You always wonder if what you’re doing means something,” said Savage. “Right as its happening, you are wrapped up in the games. The kids and the coach have a certain relationship, but after they graduate and move on, I think they start to realize how much fun it was. This year at the banquet, we had about 50 to 60 of my ex-players come back, so just to see how special the memories are to them is what made it special to me. Sometimes I wondered, ‘Man, am I helping these kids? Am I really making an impact?’ When I see them years later and they shake my hand, or call me coach even when they’ve been out of school for 10 years, then I realize how important it was for them, and that makes me feel good.”
Savage is testing out retirement by playing a lot of golf this summer. And why he may be officially retired, he is not ruling out a return some day.