Salt Fork picks Desmond as next baseball skipper

Salt Fork picks Desmond as next baseball skipper

CATLIN — Geoff Desmond's baseball involvement has strong ties to Vermilion County. First, playing at Danville High School and then Danville Area Community College before coming back to coach at his high school.

And Desmond will stick in that county once the 2019 prep baseball campaign rolls around next spring. But he's found a new program to lead.

Desmond is taking over the Salt Fork club after previous coach Ryan High accepted the same position at Casey-Westfield. It will make Desmond the third man to helm the Storm in six seasons.

"They seem to have some really good athletes, really good atmosphere and really good backing," Desmond said. "You don't normally see that in smaller schools, a really consistently strong baseball program."

Desmond is familiar with how Salt Fork operates, having occupied the dugout opposite the Storm at various points while piloting Danville's team.

The former St. Louis Cardinals prospect and Arkansas State baseball player served as the Vikings' head coach from 2014 through 2017 and spent six total years with some role on that staff after graduating from Danville in 2001.

He stepped away from the sport for the 2017-18 school year to spend more time with his family, but continued teaching at Danville.

"I started getting the urge to look for something closer to where I was," said Desmond, who now resides in Broadlands and will teach at Salt Fork. "I thought, 'Maybe this could be perfect timing.' Sometimes, one year away is plenty."

Desmond's last campaign with the Vikings generated their first Big 12 Conference championship in 20 years and a No. 1 seed in the Class 4A tournament before the Vikings bowed out in a regional title game.

"He's a respected member of the baseball community," Salt Fork principal Darin Chambliss said. "Having someone like that and not reaching out to them would seem silly on our part."

Desmond is stepping into a 1A situation at Salt Fork, and the Storm is coming off a successful year. High's last group posted a 20-10 ledger and finished a win shy of a sectional crown. The Storm is also in line to return eight of its 12 varsity athletes.

And Desmond is not solely going to run Salt Fork's high school program. As he did at Danville, Desmond will take control of the middle school crew as well.

"A lot of the athletes are doing football, basketball and other things. So I like to do something, especially in baseball, to get a look at who's coming up through the program," Desmond said. "I did say if I was going to get back into it, I was going to do it right. If you have the opportunity to do both, it makes a lot of sense to do it."

Though the Storm was one of 1A's final 16 teams this year, Chambliss feels Desmond brings a style of coaching that could push this squad to greater heights. Which is saying something considering Salt Fork finished fourth in state in 2016 under High and fourth in state in 2013 under Gary Hansgen, who coached the Storm for 32 seasons before retiring after the 2014 season. Salt Fork plays its home games on Hansgen Field in Sidell.

"He'll bring a new, fresh perspective," Chambliss said. "He's not coming in with any preconceived notions about what we have or don't have. It might be something that helps our program keep growing."

As for Desmond, the 34-year-old is ready not only to get back to the coaching grind, but also provide some youngsters "a little taste of what the next level can be like."

"If the atmosphere and culture of the team is a strong one, then wins and losses will speak for themselves," Desmond said. "But I've never had a goal of: This year we need to do this, or if we don't do this, it'll be a letdown. I just want to make sure their experience is the best it can be."