He has 429 wins and a trip to state under his belt as Champaign Central High School’s well-established baseball coach. Yet John Staab decided this year to return to coaching at the middle-school level, taking over an Edison program he helped start 15 years ago.

“Thought about it all summer,” he said. “I lost a handful of freshman boys who didn’t try out for baseball this spring, instead opting to specialize in other sports. Most of them had played quite a bit of travel baseball prior to arriving at Central. I thought I better get involved at Edison and build relationships with those players and parents, most of whom are headed toward Central, in the hopes of keeping them playing baseball, and other sports, for years to come.”

Staab’s decision is looking better by the day. The Comets are one of three area teams (St. Joseph, Gifford) to reach this weekend’s IESA state tournament, three wins away from the school’s first title in the sport.

“Any time you reach the state tournament at any level is a big deal,” he said.

What’s the biggest difference between coaching the Maroons and the younger set?

“I try and hold the same expectations with my junior high players as I do with my Central guys,” he said. “One difference is my Edison guys are getting a crash course in our Central baseball philosophy as this season is much shorter. This has been a terrific group of players and parents to work with since we started on Aug. 1. We are excited to represent Champaign baseball in East Peoria this weekend.”