MARIETTA-Just minutes after watching Marietta College's baseball team celebrate its 22nd Mideast Regional championship, Mike Deegan '01 held his 2 -year old son, Joey, while posing for photos with some the Pioneer players.
It is moments like this that make the long hours at the field away from family worth it to Marietta's associate baseball coach. Heading back to the NCAA Division III National Championship in Appleton, Wis., is also a perk.
"There are things we sacrifice as a family, but at the end of the day there isn't anything else we can imagine doing," Deegan says. "It's my wife that makes it go for us. There are a lot of times she's left on her own to do things because I'm recruiting or I'm on a road trip. My wife's friends don't think I exist. Unless you're in it, you just don't understand it. We think we have a great life, but it's not for everybody."
Deegan and his wife, Lowrie, also have a 6-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Both children attend as many games as they can, and are always dressed in Etta Express gear.
Lowrie says this is the first time she won't be able to make it to Appleton to cheer on the Etta Express, but she promises to follow every game closely over the Internet and on WMOA-AM 1490 radio.
"On game day I'm just a nervous wreck. I have all of my routines. I have jewelry I wear and the kids have their outfits," Lowrie says. "During the regional I was trying to figure out what socks to put on Joey, and then I stopped for a second and realized the socks he's wearing have no bearing on the outcome of the game."
As Marietta coach Brian Brewer prepares his team to take on Whitworth at 8:45 p.m. today on the opening day of the championships at Fox Cities Stadium, he also allows himself a second to appreciate his assistant coaches.
"Timmy Saunders is our guy on the team and Mike Deegan is my guy on the staff," said Brewer, who has led the Etta Express to two national championships since taking over the Marietta program in 2004. "What he and Lowrie and the kids do for us, and the sacrifices they make I can't put it into words."
Brewer speaks highly of his other coaches - pitching coach Cody Castle and assistant Jordan Becker - and everyone else - athletic trainers Sam Crowther and Doc Spear to the batboy and grounds crew - who plays a part in helping the program succeed.
"Cody Castle just look at our (pitching) numbers and they speak for themselves. He's spectacular at what he does," Brewer says. "To have JB back was such a blessing. This field is the way it is because of the hours he puts in. We can't keep him away from here.
"It's our entire staff, including Doc Spear and especially Sam Crowther. He's with us at 6:30 in the morning practices and he's driving back on the bus with us at 11:30 at night," Brewer says. "There is no doubt in my mind that we have the best staff in the country. Myself and our players are very lucky to have those guys with us."
Castle joined the coaching staff last season, and he has helped groom back-to-back Kent Tekulve OAC Pitchers of the Year in Brian Gasser '12 and Austin Blaski '12. Both were also the National Pitcher of the Year in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The team ERA has been among the best in the nation, and the depth of pitching is a key reason why the Etta Express are back in Appleton.
While Castle did not play at Marietta, he says his transition to the program was made easier because he played for John Schaly '82 at Ashland University.
"The programs are run very similar. Tradition wise there is no match, but a lot of it was very similar," Castle says. "Going into it you don't expect the success right away. The tradition speaks for itself and you want to be a part of it. The two years have been outstanding and it's still surreal. This is a special place to be. The players and the other coaches really make it a great learning place."
Becker says both Deegan and Brewer played a key role in him getting a job on the University of Toledo staff last season. But when Brewer asked if would be willing to come back as the groundskeeper and part-time coach, Becker didn't have to think twice.
"I knew right then I was coming back home to the place where I really grew up with baseball," Becker said.