Eric Nakayama was Marc Cowell’s right-hand man for 10 years with the Holy Family baseball team.
Now, he’s just the right man.
That was the determination of the Tigers’ athletics staff on Wednesday, as Nakayama was hired to replace Cowell and lead a program that is coming off its second Class 3A state championship in four years.
An alum of the school, Nakayama will direct a team that has not only established itself as one of the perennial contenders for the state title, but also boasts a number of players that have gone on to play college ball.
For Nakayama, the goal is to keep a high bar of excellence on the field but also to groom the players into fine members of the community.
“Here at Holy Family, it’s about building relationships with kids. We want to teach them baseball but it’s going beyond that,” Nakayama said. “For me, it’s about keeping the ship afloat and steered in the right direction we want it to go.”
Cowell had to resign his position as coach in late May, as his full time job as executive director of the nonprofit Tiny Tim Center based out of Longmont began to demand more time. Nakayama said he and Cowell had some long conversations about a possible move, and he was eager to take the reins.
But, Nakayama said, the Tigers are hopeful Cowell is able to remain a figure in the program.
“He built the field into one of the best in 3A, and he built the program,” Nakayama said. “We get like 50 kids, and for the size of our school it’s unheard of. My hope is to keep getting good kids in here to play baseball and keep it a great experience for them.”
More than 20 applied for the job, and Holy Family athletic director Ben Peterson whittled down the interviewees to three. Nakayama’s experience around baseball was more than enough, and Peterson said he also felt the knowledge of the school and the systems in place could not go unnoticed.
“We were going to hire the best person for the job, and Eric won it outright,” Peterson said. “His knowledge of the school and the way we do things (was important). Also, he’s been around the game coaching for 14 years, so he just knows baseball and has shown a desire to grow as a coach, as well.”
Even though the spring is far away, Nakayama already has his guys working an offseason regimen, again similar to what they’ve been used to. With many programs turning to fall baseball, that’s something he’ll consider for the future, too.
All in an effort to keep the Tigers pushing for success year in and year out.
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