To return or not return? Baseball players are answering

By Jasmine Pankratz – Horizon Sports Editor 

The Hesston College baseball team faces a major change in their program, hiring new head coach, Tim Cole. Only seven of the 18 current freshman say they are planning to return next year. Several point to a new coach as a major reason for lower retention rates. But for some players it’s a financial decision. For others, Hesston was a bad fit.

For Kalen Haynes, one of the eight players who say they’re “on the fence” about coming back, it’s about the future of the team.

“I don’t want to be a part of the adjustment year with a new coach and the transition that can often lead to a lower success rate for a team.”

And while current head coach Kyle Howell says the transition is an obstacle, he doesn’t view it as a setback. Anytime a program goes through a change can be seen as an opportunity for students to leave.

“However, students chose Hesston because it was the best choice for them at the time and so my hope would be that Hesston would continue to be the best fit for them moving forward,” said Howell.

Kyler Rinehart and two other players, one of whom has already left the college, indicated they will not to return next year. For Rinehart it’s due to a combination of reasons.

“Finances is number one; it’s a lot of money for me to come here and not play for Coach Howell,” said Rinehart. “He was a huge factor for why I decided to come here.”

Coach Kyle Howell accepted a position as Athletic Director at St. Augustine Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona. He served for one year as assistant baseball coach and then the past three years as head coach. He will leave Hesston at the end of the school year.

Alec Byrne feels the same way.

“Kyle’s not just leaving as my coach; he’s also leaving as a mentor and that relationship can’t be replaced in the same way with someone else,” he said. “But also financial reasons.”

For some of the eight players who are still undecided about returning, it has nothing to do with the new coach.

“The school in part isn’t a good fit for me,” said K.T. Gearlds.

“I see nothing wrong with the new coach. It’s just financial stuff,” said Logan Dryden.

While Haynes remains concerned with being a part of an unsuccessful team, Howell doesn’t believe that he needs to be.

Coach Howell discusses strategy with Dave Ryan, K.T. Gearlds, and Dylan Schoknecht.


“Not always is there a lower success rate with a new head coach,” he said. “There are a lot of coaches that take over and have great success their first year. My first year we won a regional and had the opportunity to play in a super regional.”

And although uncertain of the future, seven of the 17 freshman have decided to return.

One of the seven, David Ryan attributes his indication to return to factors apart from the future of the team.

“I like the team,” said Ryan. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play baseball after high school but after being with this team I found my passion for the game again.”

Sophomore Hunter Rhineberger, had similar reasons when he considered leaving last year.

“I came back because of Kyle,” he said. “I also had a lot of friends here and it was too late to transfer anywhere.”

Although Howell won’t be here for the players to return to next year, his influence and encouragement for students to return to Hesston because of the college itself, might be enough for some to change their mind.

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