ENID, Okla. — Scott Mansfield still can’t believe it actually happened.
Less than a month ago, Mansfield was named new head coach of Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s baseball program after serving nine years as an assistant coach to Raydon Leaton, who was the Jets' head coach for the past 19 years. Leaton stepped down to accept the campus vice presidency role on July 25.
But his new job is not the most unbelievable thing that happened to Mansfield this summer. It was winning the 2019 NJCAA Division II World Series.
“For as long as I can remember, that’s what you wanted to do,” Mansfield said in the cozy lobby of his new office Friday on NOC Enid’s campus. “You want to be the best at the end of the season and it doesn’t happen very often.”
Mansfield knew that he would eventually become the head coach of a college program somewhere at some level.
“People are head coaches all over the place,” he said. “Not everyone can say that you won a national championship.
“Being able to say that …”
Mansfield paused for a brief moment and looked down to his right arm that’s draped across the back of a chair right beside him.
“I just got chills,” he said. “It never gets old, and sometimes you have to pinch yourself to realize you really did it.”
Winning the national title is more surreal than being the head coach of the defending national champions.
“You look back at everything and think, ‘Holy cow, that did happen.’”
‘Just like it’s always been’
An NOC Enid practice without Leaton is the only superficial change you will see at the confines of Failing Field. Still, it took some getting used to during the first week of fall practice.
“It’s definitely different,” assistant coach Nolan Fanning said in the dugout before Friday’s practice. “You’re used to him standing and watching over all the guys.”
Like Leaton, Mansfield made his rounds at the start of practice. Dressed in a red, long-sleeved shirt, gray gym shorts and mirrored sunglasses, Mansfield walked across the grass outfield to each station, stopping to speak with just about everyone.
The transition to Mansfield as head coach was a quick one, Fanning said.
“We’re already on the same page,” he said. “We won a national championship, we know what’s going on and we know how to do this. Not a whole lot is going to change.”
Returning sophomore pitcher Brandon Hudson and sophomore infielder Alec Buonasera echoed Fanning’s sentiment.
“It’s just a change of scenery,” Buonasera said.
“Just like it’s always been,” Hudson added.
Buonasera said he was ecstatic when he learned Mansfield was taking the reins from Leaton. It was “a no-brainer” in his eyes for Mansfield to take Leaton’s place.
“Mansfield has a relationship with the players that … you’re kind of close to,” Buonsera said. “To have him carry over that relationship as a head coach is big.
“When you commit to a school, you’re committing to whoever recruited you to the program,” he said. “I’m pumped he got the job.”
Last season, former Jet players, such as E.J. Taylor, said the club was motivated to return to the World Series to finish the mission that they started as freshmen. Hudson said this year’s club is motivated to return to the World Series to give their new head coach the best inaugural year possible.
“We want to get there even more,” he said.
His title may have changed, but Mansfield’s daily routine is about the same as it has been for the last nine years. There’s just more paperwork.
“There’s always paperwork to be done,” he said.
There are so many finer details to the head coaching job that Mansfield said he didn't know about before as an assistant, mostly because Leaton was “so good at what he did.”
“When it gets passed down to you, it’s like, ‘Wow, there’s more behind the scenes you aren’t aware of,’” he said.
Mansfield used to be in charge of getting meals for road trips. Now, he’s lining up the road trip itself, which includes acquiring a bus, a bus driver and setting the itinerary.
Thankfully, Leaton has an open-door policy, which Mansfield uses to his full advantage when he needs help. Although, he tries to keep the visits to a minimum as Leaton has his own new job.
But on Friday morning, Mansfield found himself in Leaton’s office to just talk, catch up and reminisce.
“When we talk baseball, we just kind of go back to the nine-year relationship we had in the dugout together,” Mansfield said.
For nine years, Mansfield learned so much.
“It’s one of those mentorships that you don’t necessarily know you’re in a mentorship,” he said. “You just watch how he handles himself, handles the kids, the words that he says and the way that he says it …
“Just like your dad. You end up sounding like your dad. You end up saying the same things that your dad said to you growing up. When you’re watching him and hearing what he says and how he says it, you register it away and you try to mimic it because it’s shown to benefit.”
Leaton helped build NOC Enid’s program from scratch and guided it to four World Series appearances, winning the program’s first this past spring, and mentoring players and his coaching staff.
Like winning a national championship, that aspect of being a mentor to others hasn’t hit Mansfield yet.
“That’s the one thing I haven’t fully grasped,” he said. “Coach Leaton did such a good job with delegation and teaching at the same time,” he said. “I’m going to have to learn as I go.”
During his interview for the job, Mansfield said he was asked how he would put his stamp on the program.
His response: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
“The structure of success has been here for 20 years and I got to be a part of it for nine," he said. "Obviously, with anything we do in life, you put your own little twist on it.”
As exciting as it may be, Mansfield admits he harbors a bit of fear.
“I think it's just human nature to have that fear to not only (try to be) equal but to do better than the previous before you," he said. "I don’t think anybody could take a team that just won the national championship and have zero fears. But I was more than happy to take on the challenge that was left because I was actually able to learn nine years of how he did things before me and feel comfortable with it.”