ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The Liberal Rattlers will have a new yet familiar face in its ranks for this upcoming season.
Cayde Ward, who played for the Liberal Bee Jays and is currently an assistant coach at Seward County Community College, was recently announced as the new head coach for the Rattlers 18U team for this coming season. As Ward tells it, the job has been a little while in the making.
“Out of high school, I emailed SCCC and ended up signing to play college baseball here, and then I got familiar with the community – my roommate was Cole Evans and he helped me get adjusted to living here,” Ward said. “After college, I played three years with the Liberal Bee Jays. After my first year in Liberal, I fell in love with the community and everyone in the community was so good to me, so Liberal's been about like my second home. I enjoyed spending my time here and learning more about the game of baseball from my coaches and teammates, and my host family, Todd and Sheri King, were great and were very welcoming when I was playing for the Bee Jays, and I've been here since.”
Ultimately, Ward said, he got interested in the coaching side of the game, and this year’s Rattlers team will be his first full-time coaching job, which he said he is excited for.
“My sophomore year of college, when I realized I would have the opportunity to stay in the game and continue building relationships with my coaches and teammates, and everyone else I met along the way, that's when the idea of going into coaching got sparked,” Ward said. “Coaching's always been something I've been comfortable doing, and it's something I'd like to continue to do. It's not always about the money or glory, but if you can find something you're successful at and that you love, that's the path I've been on and will continue to be on. I've only recently met several of the Rattler players throughout the community, I haven't actually coached a Rattler team yet. I'm fresh out of college and this will be my first year coaching full time, and getting my start in a place like Liberal is very nice.”
So what led Ward to put his hat in the ring for the job?
“Todd King had asked me if I wanted to help and be a coach for a Rattlers team, and at that time, I'd told him I wasn't sure yet but I would think about it so I could leave my options open. But I knew I wanted to stay in the community for a little while longer until my next steps, and I knew I wanted to give back to the community that's given me so much and has been so good to me,” Ward said. “Giving back to the community and being able to work with young athletes and continue building on the relationships I've created here, it's really special and I would like to leave my mark. I'm excited to watch the players learn and grow and hone their baseball skills. This is my first group I'm coaching full time, so seeing where they go and how they improve on their game is really exciting. As a college baseball coach, you always want to see your athletes go somewhere that's best for them, that's always important to making decisions as far as where you want to go in life. One example at the top of my head is Brooks Kappelmann, he's been playing for several years and has done really well, and Brock's been the broadcaster at I don't even know how many games in my career, so it'll be exciting to see how things end up.”
With most of his experience having been working with college athletes, Ward said it should be an interesting transition working with this younger age group.
“The biggest thing will be trying to help the guys mature in the right way – you don't want to coach a bunch of immature kids, you want to help them become good people who can grow and move forward and pursue a good life,” Ward said. “Most of the Rattler players I've met in town are already on the right track, so I don't think there will be too much of an adjustment for them in that regard.”
And even though the season is still a little ways away, Ward said there are already many plans being made.
“We're planning on playing in five tournaments this summer and potentially some mid-week games in order to get everyone on the mound and so everyone is warmed up and ready to go before the tournaments and all of that,” Ward said. “We'll also want to get all the guys together at the high school and make sure there's a bond there before the season starts so everyone is on the same page, because you can't just jump on the field, you have to make sure everyone clicks together as one unit. We'll start training and all of that near the end of May, that's when the high school baseball season will be over and we obviously don't want to disrupt any of that. I'm looking forward to meeting all the new people, there will be several new coaches and tournament coordinators and all of those people in the baseball world to build those connections with. I'm also looking forward to seeing the guys playing and growing in their skills, that's always a big deal for their next steps as far as getting into college baseball and being up for some of that stuff. Exposure will be a big thing this summer, we want to make sure the guys are being seen by everyone they're supposed to and making sure those colleges have seen them play and can do what they need as far as recruitment.”
Overall, Ward said, he is excited for the season to get going.
“I'm very thankful for the Liberal community, and I'm thankful for all the friendships and relationships I've been able to build while I've been here and started my life,” Ward said. “I can't wait to see how this upcoming season turns out, I think we'll do a great job and have a great season.”