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North faces big loss with Mayben's softball exit

News often travels fast in a small community, but this time maybe not fast enough.

While those in the North Medford softball family — or really in Rogue Valley softball — are already well aware, it deserves a little more attention that Black Tornado softball head coach Mike Mayben resigned from his position last August and has given way to six-year assistant coach Chris Campbell.

In similar news regarding moves that happen in the summer that don’t often get brought to light by out-of-session school districts, South Medford will also have a new softball coach this spring in Shane Ramsey, who replaces Miranda Gillaspie after seven years with the Panthers.

In her time, Gillaspie compiled a 92-94 record and guided South to the state semifinals in 2014.

In the case of Mayben, it’s been a whirlwind ride for him and wife Casey — a former Black Tornado player and longtime assistant coach — that began with his hiring in August of 2005 and came to a necessary end for their family this past summer.

In 12 seasons, Mayben compiled an overall coaching record of 276-64 and guided North Medford to four Class 6A state championships (2009, 2012, 2013 and 2017) and a runner-up showing in 2014. The Black Tornado also earned its eighth straight Southwest Conference championship last spring when it stormed to a 30-1 record and routed Westview 11-3 in the state title game.

“I wasn’t set on not coaching after we went on to nationals in the summer,” said the 42-year-old Mayben on Monday, “but we just had to sit down as a family and make a decision about what our priorities were going to be when we got done.”

Looking forward to the 2017-18 school year, Mayben said the family wasn’t interested in the kind of separation they were going to have to endure should he continue on as head coach at North Medford, which any coach will tell you is a time-consuming entity.

With Casey having already moved over as a staff member at Cascade Christian High School, where youngest daughter Mia was set to start her junior year in the fall, and oldest daughter Taelor set to begin her freshman year at Southern Oregon University, Mayben found himself as the lone holdout at North Medford and with a desire to enjoy the same parental fun that is afforded others outside coaching.

“With us all in separate directions, it just seemed like the timing was right to make a change,” said Mayben.

For that to sink in, understand that Mayben has always referred to his time coaching at North Medford as a “we” process. That meant Casey, Taelor and Mia, but it also extended to his wealth of assistant coaches and Black Tornado Fastpitch devotees over the years like Rod Rumrey, Greg Winner, Dan Smalley, Russ Gann, Campbell, Curt Gould, Dan Stevens and so many others stemming from the Larry Binney tree.

“We started coaching here 12 years ago and the kids were 4 and 6 and they were always at the ballfield,” said Mayben. “Now I’m going to watch Taelor play for SOU and want to be able to watch Mia play softball at Cascade Christian, where I think last year I got to see maybe a total of 10 innings of her games.”

It really can’t be overstated the impact the Maybens have had on the proud Black Tornado program, which developed into a statewide power under Binney but was on its fifth coach in six seasons when Mike Mayben decided to give softball a try. Under Binney’s direction, North won state titles in 1997, 1998, 2002 and was runner-up in 1996. He also guided the 1984 Medford High squad to a state championship.

“For Casey and I when we stepped in,” said Mayben, “the heart that Casey especially had for the program having played for Larry, growing up in the program and then coming back and coaching, it was all about just wanting to see the program sustain its level of excellence.”

Mayben had been a standout baseball player at North Medford, graduating in 1994, before continuing his pursuits at Western Baptist. He briefly coached freshman baseball at North Medford and spent two summers as head coach of the now-defunct Southern Oregon RiverDogs amateur baseball team before turning his attention to the softball diamond.

“We came in and it was a pretty steep learning curve right up front,” said Mayben, who was named 6A state coach of the year four times. “We struggled through about three years of .500 softball before we ever started to really get anywhere. We just had some incredible kids come in along the way and families who believed in what we were doing and luckily had some success over time.”

And while the state championship banners are nice, it was always about more than that for the Maybens.

“What Casey and I are most proud of is establishing what we thought was important, which was character building and team bonding throughout the program,” he said. “We focused on those core values that are really important to all of us and we feel really good about leaving it in the position that the kids who have come out of the program are stable and heading on to bigger and better things, getting jobs and doing great things in the community.”

The reality of the situation, though, is that the Maybens aren’t going to be far removed from the Black Tornado program, with Mike Mayben still teaching at North Medford and also serving as a board member for the Black Tornado Fastpitch youth programs. He has continued to coach clinics at North, Cascade Christian and SOU, and will run the annual Spring Break Invitational that brings top softball programs together in Medford from throughout the state.

“We’ll still be around them,” said Mayben, “but we’re going to miss being around them all the time, supporting and helping them out any way we can.”

It’s the ability to help more than one entity that definitely excites Mayben these days.

“Just to be able to be in all those places and be part of all those programs as opposed to running one program has been a neat transition for me,” he said.

“I don’t feel like I retired. I’m too young to retire from anything,” added Mayben. “Absolutely I hope there’s an opening someday where I can continue to coach once I have had the opportunity to watch my kids play. I find myself thinking about guys here at North like Tim Karrick and Rod Rumrey who stepped away and then found their way back into coaching. I could definitely see myself finding my way back to coaching after having this opportunity.”

In the meantime, he’s happy to see Campbell having his own opportunity at North Medford.

“Chris is just an amazing, committed guy who loves the game and loves our kids,” said Mayben. “He’s always been committed to the kids throughout our softball program. And they pretty much retained almost all the coaches so things will stay pretty intact for the upcoming season, which is great for the kids.”

“This is his first head coaching opportunity so I’m excited to see him grow and succeed in that position,” added Mayben. “I just hope people understand it takes some time. It took us a long time until we were finally doing things I hoped we could do, so hopefully everyone is patient and gives him that time he needs to get things going, too.”

— Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry