CHOCTAW — Jim McCharen heard what people were saying in 1979.
“They said don’t do it, that is a no-win situation,” McCharen recalls about the reaction to him being named the Choctaw baseball coach following Hall of Fame coach Bill Jensen. “But it was a great opportunity and I took it. It worked out just fine.”
Thirty-five years later, Shane Hawk is now in a similar position at Choctaw.
He was recently named the Yellowjackets’ new baseball coach after longtime coach Mark Craft announced his retirement following a 27-year tenure with the school.
Hawk is the fourth coach in nearly 55 years for the Yellowjackets, adding pressure to a first-time coach to continue a strong legacy built by Jensen, McCharen and Craft.
“Their names are all over the building and it’s going to be a challenge for anyone,” said Hawk, a former standout at Oklahoma State and Midwest City before pitching in the New York Mets’ organization.
“They always say you always don’t want to follow a legend in coaching. It’s tough to follow that, something that’s already been in place for so long and so successful.”
Hawk feels he is ready for the challenge.
After being drafted in the fourth round by the Mets in 2003, Hawk’s professional career was mired with shoulder injuries that ended his career in 2008 following his third surgery.
He then returned to OSU to finish his degree, while helping as the pitching coach for Choctaw. Following the 2010 season, he stopped coaching until he returned to Midwest City for the 2013 season.
It was there that he realized how much he wanted to be at Choctaw.
“I never really left Choctaw,” Hawk said. “When we played them that season, I told them, ‘I’m from Midwest City, but this isn’t somewhere I want to retire. So, if something comes open I’d like to come back to Choctaw.’”
Craft called following the season, bringing Hawk back as a teacher and pitching coach as the Yellowjackets went 24-17 and made the Class 6A state tournament.
“I couldn’t be more satisfied with their choice at this point,” Craft said.
Hawk said he doesn’t plan on changing much, and for good reason.
The program is on the rise like many of the Choctaw programs. It also has had a solid structure the past five decades.
“I hope to, one, bring a new fire that some of the kids around here haven’t had with my passion for the game,” Hawk said. “I know Craft’s been around for a long time, he’s done so much great stuff and I’ve got a different approach to some things I want to do and there’s a lot of things I want to keep the same that you don’t have to mess with.”
Both Craft and McCharen, who is now the Choctaw superintendent, said the pressure for Hawk really is to help players develop on and off the field.
If that happens, the wins will likely follow.
“I think the pressure is just to do a great job with our kids,” McCharen said. “I think the winning will follow if he has great relationships with the kids. I have no doubt he’s a good baseball person, so it’s about relationships with kids, structuring the program and the coaching part — that’s actually the pretty easy part.”