ENID, Okla. — Raydon Leaton is not the kind of guy to accept an individual award as an individual.
From the Region II baseball tournament to the NJCAA Division II World Series, every time the Northern Oklahoma College Enid head baseball coach received a Coach of the Tournament accolade, the first thing he did was look behind him and grab the coaches who have been beside him all season.
“Y’all are coming with me,” assistant coach Nolan Fanning remembered Leaton saying during the Region II tournament.
“He’s that type of guy,” Fanning said. “It’s a full team effort. Everything we put into, we’ve put into together.”
The American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) released the 2019 ABCA/Diamond National Coaches of the Year list on Thursday and awarded Leaton the NJCAA Division II Coach of the Year title.
“Coach Leaton has consistently led a program of academic and athletic excellence,” NOC athletic director Jeremy Hise said. “We are fortunate to have him at NOC and in our community. Coach Leaton is very deserving of this award.”
The recognition is just one of the several highlights Leaton and the Jets baseball club received this past season. The biggest highlight, of course, was winning the NJCAA Division II World Series on May 31 at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. The Jets capped a 42-18 season with a 5-4 defeat of Mesa Community College (Ariz.) in the national championship game.
Leaton joins 10 other coaches who received the Coach of the Year award for their respective levels. NOC Enid assistant coach and pitching coach Scott Mansfield said it felt like Leaton reached “uncharted territory.”
“When you’re one of the top coaches in the nation, that’s pretty rewarding,” he said. “Just to be able to be associated with that award is pretty special.”
Like Leaton, all 10 coached a championship winning team this season, like NCAA Division I Coach of the Year Tim Corbin, whose Vanderbilt Commodores won the College World Series over Michigan on Wednesday night.
“That just proves that it’s a team accomplishment,” Leaton said.
Leaton is a man who practices what he preaches. Time and again, he’s told his players that any time the team achieves a high level of success, the individual accolades are sure to follow. The same is no different when it comes to the recognition a coach receives.
“It’s just a credit to my guys and the season they had, and definitely my coaching staff,” Leaton said. “We all share in this award, no doubt.”
Mansfield is heading into his ninth season with Leaton, while Fanning is beginning his second. Fanning, a former Jet player, said when Leaton offered him a chance to join the coaching staff, he agreed “in a hurry.”
“The one thing I loved when I was there (as a player) was that no matter what, everybody that was on that team was 100 percent in,” Fanning said. “All 35 guys that we had, had one goal in mind. You don’t go many places where you can get 35 guys on the same page, and (Leaton) can do that. He does that year in and year out.”
Leaton said to build his coaching staff, he needed loyal coaches who wanted to buy into the program and believe in his system.
Mansfield said he felt like Leaton’s program was a great fit for him when he joined in the fall of 2010.
“When I talked to Coach Leaton, that was a big turning point,” Mansfield said. “We are teachers. We are coaches. We are going to compete at a high, high level and it was everything that I was born and raised on in coaching.”
“It is a whole staff (effort),” Leaton said. “There’s not one person responsible for any success this program has. It’s a combined effort and everybody’s involved.”
Especially with a three-man staff.
Leaton, Fanning and Mansfield are in charge of not only coaching the roster they have in the present season, but also recruiting to build future rosters.
“I keep using the word grind but that’s what it is," Leaton said. "When you’re sitting in 100-degree heat all summer like (Fanning and Mansfield) did at the Oklahoma State games the other day. Both of them were there at 7 o’clock in the morning, got home at 10 o’clock at night. It’s tough. It’s hot. You’re out there working. But you’re doing that because you have pride in your program and you want to repeat the success you just had.
“This is definitely a blue collar job and we work extremely hard to achieve the success we’ve had.”
The accolades and a national championship, however, make things a little easier on the recruiting trail.
“Anytime you got out there and tell an 18-year-old that you just won a national championship and that you’ll play under the reigning coach of the year, I think that definitely grabs their attention more than anything else that we’ve been able to say,” Mansfield said. “I think (David Allen Memorial Ballpark) speaks for itself. Usually, that’s our cherry on top, but now you put a national championship with David Allen, now that’s definitely going to add some more lure to Jet baseball.”