Coach of the Year: Nayman builds consistent winner
by Emily Horos
June 22, 2013 11:51 PM | 2791 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Coach Mike Nayman certainly isn’t a man of few words and if the topic of conversion happens to be the Creekview baseball team, you better be ready to listen.

Nayman, who has coached at Creekview since the school opened eight years ago, loves his players, his field and his school. He tends to the field, even when it isn’t in use over the summer, and follows how current players are doing in travel baseball and how the Grizzlies graduates are doing at the next level.

But when it comes to the 2013 team, even Nayman admits he didn’t think that it would be something special when it started.

“We came in this past season and we legitimately had two or three spots where guys were going to compete,” said Nayman. “We had five or six spots nailed down, where guys had been there in the past. We were looking to just fill spots.”

Some of the fill-ins turned out to be pretty good. Kyle Wilkie, a freshman catcher, went on to be named to the All-Region 7AAAAA team. The team platooned guys at first and second base throughout the season. In the end, Creekview qualified for the state playoffs and reached the second round before falling to Gainesville.

For his accomplishments this season Nayman has been named the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Baseball Coach of the Year.

Nayman relied on some proven talent and took some risks were youngster putting a solid team on the field this season.

“You always want the proven,” said Nayman. “The unknown is scary as a coach. I think any coach would rather have the proven than newcomers, but it was fortunate for us.”

Many of the team’s top players— including four who were named to the all-county team— are underclassmen. Most of them started as freshman and sophomores.

“We have a lot of guys, who are going to be outstanding and a lot of guys coming back,” said Nayman. “I think we are just going to lose two starters and some pitchers.”

The coach said that he will look to his existing team to fill the holes in the pitching staff. On the 2013 team there were six position players, who could also pitch. Several of them, including Avery Smith, Chandler Wold and Nick Williams will play more prominent roles on the mound. This year Wold and Williams played shortstop and third, respectively.

The junior varsity program at Creekview has also found success and are been providing Nayman with quality players.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Nayman. “If someone had said ‘you are going to make the four state playoff appearances in the first eight years of the program, would you take it?’ I would have taken it in a heartbeat. Really it has only been seven varsity seasons when you think about it.”

Over those seven seasons, Creekview has also moved from Class AA to Class AAAAA. They took an enrollment hit when River Ridge opened four years ago, but the baseball program hasn’t lost anything.

“We have had great players,” said Nayman. “I can drive it, but the players do it and we have had a ton of great players.”

Six of the players from this year’s team will be going to on play in college. Among them are: Ryan Zentko (Georgia Tech), Ben Carraway (Virginia), Steven Whitaker (Coastal Carolina), Chase Puckett (Reinhardt), Ryan Stevens (LaGrange) and C.J. Sims (Shorter College).

“When you look at it, you have got to have those players,” said Nayman. “You can’t want something to happen, but you still have to make it happen. We have pushed out players and they have responded.”

In the end, Nayman feels that 2013 team will produce even more college-bound players. He looks at Smith, Wold and Williams as three of them.

“When you can keep restocking players that are going to play at a very high level for you in high school and go on to play beyond your level, you are going to find success,” said Nayman. “We are going to have a lot of talent sitting in our dugout next season, just like we did this season. That says a lot.”

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