Yesterday afternoon Chandler, Oklahoma, lost a great man. Mark Howard passed away yesterday and I lost a coach, a mentor, and a friend. Coach Howard was one of those figures in a person’s life that indirectly influences decisions you make and the way you make them. He came to Chandler in 1987 as an energetic young coach and science teacher and fit in immediately with a very close knit town. He brought a sense of discipline with his energy and was one of the best examples of hard work a young person could ever have. Mark spent countless hours working to turn a windy pasture into one of the best high school baseball facilities in the state. He taught kids of all ages to take pride in what they have and to work hard to keep it top notch. I watched my brother play baseball for Coach Howard and I understood at a young age what was going on. I understood the routine that went into practices and I could see how that was developing kids that just liked baseball into young men that loved and respected the game as well as themselves and their school. Mark instilled a sense of pride in his players that is still with many of us today.
I was fortunate to play for Coach Howard for 5 years as I joined his summer league team as a skinny 8th grader just trying to show him that I was capable of holding up my part of the team. I remember the initiation well, as I often had to carry equipment bags to games (I am pretty sure many of them weighed more than me!) and often times us “pups” would have to carry things for the seniors and do what they wanted us to do to prove that we were apart of the bigger picture. It seems odd to those that have never been a part of this, but believe me it is essential to building trust and learning how to do your part, even if it is small, to help the team. As I grew both physically and mentally through working with Coach Howard during the summers keeping the field looking perfect I was able to get to know him off the field. I learned that he was genuine in every way and absolutely loved what he was doing. I never once heard him complain about doing what needed to be done…he just did it. There is no way I can express what having that type of role model means to a high school kid. To see someone genuinely happy doing exactly what he wanted to do…even if it meant working until his hands bleed.
As time went on and our team started to get better we began to see the benefits of all the hard work we had done years before and understand even more what all the work Mark had put in really meant. We saw how the strict rules and tiring punishment for our mistakes had helped build a championship program. We learned how working in the rain in March can lead to championships in May. This is something that unfortunately many kids don’t get to see or be a part of, because Mark Howard was in my life I was.
I don’t think I can keep going much longer…I will try to post more later, to get it off my chest and to share more about Mark’s impact on my life but right now I just can’t do it.
I want to thank Melody for sharing her husband with all of us, and thank Randee and Karlee for sharing their dad with so many kids. He truly impacted us all in ways we can’t express.
We love you guys and I know that if there is ever anything I can do to help you all please just let me know.