Satisfied coach: Burke finishes baseball career tied with Jordan
Marietta High School co-head coach Larry Burke made up his mind before the start of the 2013 baseball season that this would be the last one of his very successful 26-year coaching career.
Burke came into the season within striking distance of eclipsing the all-time Marietta High School coaching record for wins, one that was held by Burke’s own high school baseball coach and mentor Jim Jordan.
Almost like it was destined to happen, Burke finished the season with 402 wins, the exact same amount as Jordan, the legendary hall of fame MHS coach who was partly responsible for Burke securing the Marietta job in the first place.
To go down in Tiger history tied with Jordan sits just fine with Coach Burke.
“I’m very excited, very humbled and very blessed. It has been a great career,” Burke said. “To end up tied with my mentor and an icon like Coach Jordan is great. It’s just an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with him.”
Burke played under Jordan at MHS from 1966 through 1969 before attending Muskingum College in New Concord where he played both basketball and baseball.
After graduating from Muskingum in 1973, Burke moved to Cleveland where he got his masters degree at Cleveland State University.
It was at Cleveland State where Burke began his coaching career as he spent two years as an assistant before accepting his first head coaching job at Cuyahoga Community College.
In the early 1980s, Burke received a phone call from Jordan asking him if he would have any interest in returning to MHS as his eventual replacement.
The idea intrigued Burke and with a recommendation from Jordan, the Burke era began when he was hired as the skipper of the orange and black in 1985.
Burke piloted the Tigers for 26 of the next 28 years and a look back at his career totals put him in an elite group of Ohio high school baseball coaches.
Burke’s teams compiled a record of 402-215 for a winning percentage of .652.
“It takes a lot of great ballplayers, as well as parents and family members,” said Burke of the key to such a long run of success. “I had a lot of great coaches as well, and you just don’t win without good coaching.”
MHS claimed eight Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) crowns under Burke’s leadership as well as five sectional championships and three district titles.
In those three years that the Tigers won the district crown, twice they advanced all the way to the regional finals before bowing out.
“We were still Division I back then and just were never able to take that next step,” recalled Burke.
Among other awards bestowed upon Burke in his lengthy career were SEOAL coach of the year honors no less than seven times, District coach of the year three times and an election to the Southeastern district coaches Hall of Fame in 2007.
He was also selected to coach the Mizzuno All-State series back in 2002.
With more than two and half decades and 617 games in the books, highlights have been many for Burke, but he lists the opportunity to coach his own two sons right at the top.
“That was a big thrill to be able to coach both of my sons,” said Burke whose sons Larry Jr. and Brandon graduated from MHS in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
Despite the fact that both of his parents have passed away as well as Coach Jordan, Burke feels that he has had some major assistance through the years from up above. “I know that all three of them have been up there rooting for me,” said Burke. “They’re looking down from above and saying good job.”
Despite some speculation around town that he could possibly return next season in an effort to break the record, Burke said that will absolutely not be the case.
“Of course I was hoping to get the record, but I am perfectly satisfied to be on the same line as Coach Jordan,” said Burke. “I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I came back just for the record. That would go against everything I stood for as a coach.”
After spending the better part of four decades worth of springs focused on baseball, Burke is not quite sure what he will do next February when baseball practice and conditioning typically gets underway.
“That is something I’ve got to figure out,” said Burke, of the retirement life. “I’m sure I will have an itchy finger to want to be involved and asking them if they need help.”
Burke’s co-head coach the past eight years Jim Thrash will return to coach the Tigers in 2014 and that everyday contact with the coaching staff and school administrators as well as the student-athletes is what Burke feels he will miss the most. “I will miss our chats and bouncing ideas off of one another about the game the most,” said Burke.
When Burke looks back at his legacy, the thing he is the most proud of is being able to stick to a motto that his late parents instilled in him as a youngster.
“If you are going to do something, put 100 percent towards it,” recalled the Tiger coach. “And always attempt to do it right the first time.”