As torn as he was by making such a move, Nate Mayben said Cascade Christian High simply made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Mayben has served as a North Medford assistant baseball coach since returning to the Rogue Valley in 2010, and was content to continue that role at his alma mater, but Challengers Athletic Director Dave Fennell was diligent in finding a way to get his "top choice" to take over his school's Class 3A baseball program.
Mayben replaces John Bruce, who resigned two months ago after a second tenure with the school that included the program's first state title in 2012.
"When coach Bruce resigned," said Fennell, "we met with everybody and our Superintendent Devon Rickabaugh said we should go after the best. Nate Mayben, obviously, was on the top of our list. We made the push and contacted him and it's been a great process and also a very interesting one because he didn't really want to leave North Medford since he's a very loyal guy."
"The more you get to know somebody in an interview process, you find out if this is someone I really want or someone I should bump out of the interview pool," added Fennell. "And the more I got to know Nate, I just knew this was the guy we wanted to build our future with. As an AD, it doesn't get any better than this."
The feeling was mutual for Mayben, who has spent the past three summers guiding the Medford Mustangs program in American Legion AAA play.
"I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm excited about the challenge ahead of me here," he said. "I think Cascade's a great school in itself and I think being a private Christian school obviously allows you to do some things differently and I look forward to that."
Mayben capped his playing career at Corban University (formerly Western Baptist College) in 2004 ranked in the top 10 in 11 offensive categories, including No. 1 in career hits (214) to go with a .326 career batting average. He also pitched and was in the top 10 in five categories.
After two seasons as an assistant coach at Corban, Mayben assumed control in 2007 and compiled a 49-136-1 record (third-most wins in school history) in four seasons. When he returned home, he joined Brett Wolfe's staff as an assistant coach at North Medford and soon after was named Sandee Kensinger's replacement with the Mustangs.
Moving from Wolfe's staff and his position as an information technology specialist at North Medford High wasn't a decision that Mayben took lightly. Out of respect, he even went back to Black Tornado administrators to see if they could match the offer put forth by Fennell.
"It wasn't an easy decision at all," said Mayben, 32. "When people say where they're coming from is their family, well North really was my family. My mom works there, my brother works there, I work there, my dad subs there and my sister-in-law subs there."
"It wasn't an easy decision by any means because I love the people at North," added Mayben, who with his wife Beth has two young children (4-year-old Tucker and 1-year-old Ayla). "They gave me a great opportunity and really saved my family's butt a little bit just by giving me a job in the first place after I resigned from Corban. But ultimately, the decision to join Cascade is what's best for my family and puts us in the best situation."
Mayben will handle IT situations at Cascade Christian and Grace Christian schools. He also plans to go back to school and gain his master's degree in teaching to maximize his potential, and the administration at Cascade Christian is fully in support of that plan.
Fennell said the traits that helped set Mayben apart during his coaching search were his passion for the game of baseball and the vision and drive he has to help further develop the Challenger program.
"I think I had every coach in our program calling me or texting me that they were excited about bringing Nate into our family," said Fennell. "The things that he's seeing for the baseball program at Cascade Christian "¦ it's exciting what he's going to do, not just what he wants to do."
"And as good as he's going to do for us on the baseball end," he added, "I'm even more excited what he's going to mean for our school and for our kids. He's just going to do amazing things for our school."
Mayben said he certainly isn't trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Challengers baseball, especially given the team's success in recent years. That said, he has hopes to further grow the program through fall baseball and consistent programs at the middle school and summer levels. He'll especially need help during the summer since he expects to continue his position with the Mustangs.
Mayben said his first goals will be in securing staff commitments and finding a way to develop baseball training facilities at the high school so players have an on-campus place to better themselves.
"I think what I'm going to be able to do at Cascade is really similar to what we do at North, which is to develop a program and the kind of environment that makes it easy for kids to buy into the system," said Mayben.
The Challengers went 23-5 this past season, including an undefeated run to another Southern Cascade League title, but fell short in the Class 3A state quarterfinals with a 2-1 loss to Bandon/Pacific.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry