Thirty years in and Ross Pagel is ready to take a lesser role in both the classroom and the dugout.
Pagel is retiring as a teacher at the end of the school year and is also stepping down as Red Mountain’s baseball coach.
“It’s time to give it to somebody else,” Pagel, who has taught chemistry, biology, and earth science, said after Monday’s win over Westwood. “I’m retiring from teaching after 30 years, but I want to stay in the game and stay around (the East Valley).”
The game has been a part of the family for a long time as he played for Phoenix Washington as did all his brothers, two of whom went on to pro careers in Mike (football) and Karl (baseball) and their father, Tom, was a long-time coach in Arizona.
Ross got his start in 1988 at Mesa where he coached football, baseball and track before heading to Westwood in 1992 to be the baseball coach. He made his way to Red Mountain as an assistant in 2006 and took over the program in 2011.
“My dad became an assistant and I think it is more in our blood,” said Ross, who will continue to be in the classroom as a retired teacher. “There is a lot that goes with being the head coach. I just want to help kids and people. As an assistant you can get back to that. There are a lot of good young coaches out there that can run a program. I will go to freshmen or JV. I just want to help out.”
Additionally, he wants a chance to be with his family more including this fall when his son, Riley, moves up north as a punter for Northern Arizona.
“I want to see my kids more,” he said. “Riley is headed to NAU to punt and I want to be free to be up there whenever.”
For now, he just has to look down the dugout to see Riley, who gets to play out his senior year with his dad as his head coach.
“It’s wasn’t easy early in my career,” Riley said. “I had to learn to get used to it. We are in a good place now and I wouldn’t want anyone else coaching me my last year. It’s the way it is supposed to be and hopefully we can send him out as a winner.”
The Mountain Lions are 11-7 but have the talent to be a serious contender in the 6A Conference in May.
Coach Pagel, who was the quarterback and first baseman at Phoenix College, knows he has a good team, but admits he isn’t as worried about the record as much as he is how they are playing.
“People ask me how many games I’ve won,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ve had good years and I really don’t look at records. I don’t even know our record, right now.
“To me it is about getting the most out of the players and the team that year. Did we play up to our potential and get the most out of them? I want to win just like everyone else, but getting the most out of an individual or team is more important.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.