Jun. 10—John Neal is returning to his roots.
Neal, who played baseball Haskell, is returning to the school for his second coaching stint as head baseball coach. He was there from 2004 to 2009 leading baseball, then stayed on as an assistant in softball for eight seasons after that. Since then, he's coached middle school at Twin Hills in Okmulgee.
"My oldest son (Brady) is going to be a freshman and I'm excited about being able to coach him and excited to get back into baseball there," he said.
Neal was a shortstop and pitcher for Haskell's state championship team in 1996, his junior year. He transferred to Chickasha as a senior.
He played one year of college baseball at Bacone then another year at Crowder before elbow issues ended his baseball playing days. He got his undergraduate degree from Northeastern State.
Haskell reached the regional semifinal round in Class 2A this season with just nine roster players. Frank Marsaln retired following the season, opening this opportunity for Neal to be back in Haymaker blue and white. He left all nine for another year, with just one of them being a senior.
"I watched them play a couple of times and I'm excited about what's out there," he said. "There's only nine of them. They're lacking the addition of a couple of young guys we have coming and I'm not sure who else we may have come out, but it's a good group and I'm hoping we have a pretty good run in them."
One of Neal's most memorable years in his previous stint was a district playoff series with Kellyville his final season in which due to rain, it had been postponed past a week and in the end, relocated to Jenks. With game one that afternoon at 4, the two teams split the initial two games, forcing a third to be completed in time for regionals.
They decided to finish it there and Haskell won 12-11 in a game that ended about 3:30 a.m. the next day.
At the time, Neal described it as "two boxers trading punches but in reality we all felt like a bunch of zombies."
All of that followed 4 1/2 hours of work trying to get their own field ready before giving up and moving to Jenks.
Neal will also serve as an assistant fastpitch coach under Greg Wilson.