MOVE TO MHS: Rozell reflects on tenure with Riders, looks at next step

May 24—During John Rozell's two seasons as Hulbert baseball head coach, one of his focuses was developing the next crop of talents.

As a smaller school, the Riders have just one program feeding the high school team. Because of this, Rozell had a strong focus on building the Riders' junior high players into competent high school players.

"There are other schools that have players that do travel ball and that isn't really the case at Hulbert," Rozell said. "The junior high team is the only feeder team. It is hard to make a baseball player when they are 16 years old. For so many programs the junior high is a blow off but I thought that was the future of our program."

Now after two seasons, Rozell is moving on from the program after his contract wasn't renewed. According to Rozell, the move worked out after landing with 4A Muldrow.

Despite his time being over with the Riders, Rozell was able to bring some success to Hulbert. Winning nearly 20 wins and a District Title in his first season.

"I think we brought baseball back to Hulbert, we have some talented players that helped," Rozell said. "Hulbert baseball used to be good a long time ago and these players made a name for themselves, we made it relevant at Hulbert."

This season wasn't as successful for the Riders. Some departures that were expected to stay on the team were gone heading into the season. The loss of these veteran players made the Riders a young team for the second year in a row.

"We had some good growth, we were a young team last year and with some folks quitting we are young again," Rozell said. "We had three freshmen that were starting every game. On the surface, we took a step back but we are poised to do some good things. The best way to get experience is out there with the lights on playing the game. I think the best thing we did was prepare for the future."

Despite having a smaller roster and a young team, Rozell was still able to get the most out of some of his players.

"Ethan Thompson was dynamic on the mound, we expected to win every time we were on the mound," Rozell said. "He won't give up many runs, if we stretch out three runs we have to win. Ethan Ellis is a freak behind the plate stepping up from his sophomore to freshman year. As a catcher, he led the State in base runners caught. I was wondering why people kept running on him."

Rozell has already started with MHS after being named head coach on Wednesday, May 22. After finishing 16-10 and a third-place finish in districts, Rozell is inheriting a program with strong bones.

"Muldrow was highly recommended, they had the best season in quite some time," Rozell said. "From 2A to 4A is different you play in basically a conference season. I come down here and they have good facilities and a nice field. They have an outstanding group of junior high players who are going to be eighth and ninth graders. What I was high on is that the word family was used a lot here."

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