Canyon head coach John Doan going out with his best season ever


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After two decades leading Canyon’s baseball program, John Doan has made it public that this is his final year leading the Eagles baseball program. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
There’s no guarantee John Doan is going out on top on the same week he’ll celebrate his 54th birthday.

But even if his Canyon Eagles don’t make it that far, Doan will go out the best he’s ever been.

After two decades leading Canyon’s baseball program, Doan has made it public that this is his final year in the dugout for the Eagles. It also happens that he’s never been the head coach for a team this deep into a season.

That’s because the Eagles are playing Stephenville in a best-of-three Class 4A region final series starting 7 p.m. Thursday at Texas Tech’s Dan Law Field.

In 21 seasons as Canyon’s head coach, Doan has taken his team to the region semifinals nine times, but this is the first time under Doan’s leadership the Eagles have been one step from the state tournament.

“We’ve had some really good years over the years and had some really good teams come through here,” Doan said. “It was just really cool to see this group get us over the hump. This team is so special and fun to be around. If I was 16-18 years old, I wish I could be in their friend group.”

Instead, the unassuming Doan has insisted he’s just along for the ride until it ends, whether it’s Friday in Lubbock (the second game is at 2 p.m., with a third game if necessary, following 30 minutes later) or next week at the state tournament in Austin.

Either way, it will mark the end of an era for Canyon and Doan, who arrived on campus in 2002 from Dalhart as an assistant to baseball coach Gary Hix and football coach Blake Bryant. After the Eagles went to the state tournament in 2003, Hix went to Amarillo High and Doan took over in the dugout and hasn’t left since racking up 560 career wins.

It just so happens that the best season Doan has had at Canyon will be his last, and he hasn’t budged from that.

“I was told that you’re going to know when it’s time, and I know in my heart that it’s time,” said Doan, who turns 54 on June 8. “There were a lot of times when I talked to my wife about it. We drove by Kimbrough Stadium and I said I could not imagine those lights being on Friday night and not being a part of that. I know that’s football season, but I’m OK with that now. I feel I’ve gotten to a place where I can walk away from the games and the kids will be the hardest things.”

Not only will Doan be gone after the season, but his longtime right-hand man, pitching coach Wade Williams, will also be retiring. Doan figured it was best that they go out together.

“I could have retired a year ago,” Doan said. “Along with coach Williams we’ve been doing this together for so long. He’s so smart in the game of baseball and I’m just the guy with the title. I told him that on the bus and he said, ‘Why don’t you just go one more year and we can go out together?’ That’s when it really kind of set in my head.”

Doan waited until the middle of the regular season to let his players know this would be his last year. It seems like none of those involved are ready for it to end.

That makes this run especially big for Canyon’s seniors.

“I feel like we as seniors who have been on varsity since our sophomore year have made a bond with coach Doan and coach Williams,” said first baseman and cleanup hitter Sam Johnson, one of three Canyon senior starters. “Being able to be that senior class that has gotten us past the fourth round and get them as far as they can get is pretty special.”

Canyon players celebrate with coach John Doan after sweeping rival West Plains in the regional quarterfinals. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
With a 28-7-1 record, Canyon has gone 7-0 in the playoffs. The Eagles have won some close games in the postseason, although their 8-1 win over Springtown in a one-game playoff in last week’s region semifinals might be considered a breather.

Despite being the No. 3 seed from District 4-4A, Canyon, has shown how much it belongs with Doan holding together a diverse mix of talent.

“From top to bottom from the sophomores to the juniors we have and certainly the seniors, it’s just a fun group to be around,” Doan said. “They’ve jelled so well. You’d think with a team with that much disparity in the age group there would be some animosity about a sophomore getting this over a senior or a junior over a senior but there’s none of that. They’re just an unselfish bunch that just really cares for each other.”

That’s likely a reflection of what the Eagles have absorbed from Doan. The team always has come first, a lesson the seniors learned long ago.

“It’s been really special,” said senior shortstop Christian McGuire, who’s likely to start on the mound in game one or two. “(Doan’s) a great coach and more importantly he’s a great guy and a great role model for us. He and coach Williams teach us not only how to be great baseball players but also how to be great men.

“Teaching us how to have team at-bats is a big thing and not just going up there swinging away no matter what the count is. It’s doing whatever the team needs whether it’s poking a hit through the right side or laying down a bunt.”

Doan isn’t known for outbursts at umpires (there’s a good reason for that) or at his players when things go bad. He’s an even keel coach who rides the wave whether it ebbs or flows during the course of a game or a season.

Senior catcher Rece Davis, who missed a chunk of the season during district play, thinks that’s the biggest baseball lesson the team has gotten from Doan.

“Baseball’s a game full of highs and lows,” Davis said. “(Doan’s) never too high or never too low. If anything great happens he’ll always tell us that, but that there are ways we can be better. If we don’t play how we’re supposed to play he’ll say we’re better than this. He’ll tell us to figure it out.”

Whether it’s the seniors, juniors or sophomores, they do seem to have figured it out, at least to the extent that they’re one of only eight Class 4A teams in the state still playing now that school’s out for summer.

Head coach John Doan took over the Canyon baseball program in 2003. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
At best, there’s now only eight more days for Doan, Williams and the seniors remaining at Canyon. With so many underclassmen returning next season, expectations will be sky high for the Eagles to get this far again, but some of this year’s principles won’t be around for it.

“We’ve got a really good baseball team this year,” Williams said. “I didn’t even calculate that. We’re going to be better next year. It’s a special group of kids. We’ve got some good senior leadership and we’ve got some young guys that have grown up throughout the season. They’re playing their best baseball at the right time.”

Williams said he still didn’t have any second thoughts about retiring. Doan is ready for someone else to inherit that abundance of talent next year.

“We’ve had that question posed,” Doan said. “The program is in a really, really good place. It boils down to if you feel like you’re done, you’re probably done and that feels like where I’m at. I’m really excited to see what the future has in store for those guys.”

As for what it holds in store for Doan? Well, you can find him in a nearby baseball or football stadium next year, only not in the sideline or a dugout.

He’ll still be involved in sports, just unlike anyone’s seen him for the last three decades.

“I want to trade in the coaching gear for the officiating gear,” Doan said. “I want to do full-time football then give basketball a shot and then baseball. I did it in college and I always loved that part of it. My ultimate goal is to call baseball at the College World Series. If I can ever make it to that point, I would love to give it a shot.

“That’s not just to pass the time and make a little extra money. It’s something I’m serious about and I really have a passion for it. It doesn’t have to be college.”

Region I-4A Finals
at Texas Tech’s Rip Griffin Park, Dan Law Field 

Canyon Eagles (28-7-1) vs. Stephenville Yellowjackets (28-10-1)

Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday
Game 2: 2 p.m. Friday
Game 3: 30 minutes following Game 2, if necessary

Region semifinal results: Canyon defeated Springtown 8-1 in a one-game playoff. Stephenville swept Seminole 5-1 and 4-3 in a best-of-three series.

Note: This is the second straight year Stephenville has played a Canyon ISD school in the region final. Last year, in coach Cory Hamilton’s final season at Randall, the Raiders beat the Yellowjackets in three games, losing the first one 3-2 before winning the next two 2-0 and 6-0.

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