MADISON TOWNSHIP — He can recall the most minute details from a loss that happened 20 years ago.
Just don’t ask Doug Rickert about his career coaching record.
“I have no idea,” Rickert said from inside his cramped office Monday afternoon. “I never cared about that.”
After 21 varsity seasons, 16 sectional championships, nine conference crowns and four district titles, Rickert quietly stepped down as Madison’s baseball coach late last week. The Madison graduate will continue as the school’s athletic director.
“I can remember everything about the losses,” Rickert said as he reclined in his office chair. “The wins? I can’t remember. It’s sad.”
Suffice it to say, there were plenty of wins. He picked up his 300th in the spring of 2014. The following season, Madison won its fourth district title under Rickert with a memorable 3-1, 11-inning victory over Findlay and ace lefty Connor Curlis, who starred at Ohio State and is now in the Cincinnati Reds farm system.
Rickert, who took over for Rob Peterson in 1999, led the Rams to three straight district titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Rams fell in the regional championship game — one win from the state tournament — each year.
The 2001 loss was especially painful. Madison dropped a heart-breaker to Maumee, 2-1, in 13 innings. Maumee finished as state runner-up that year.
“That was a rough one,” Rickert lamented. “That was an unbelievable game.”
The highlight of Rickert’s career was coaching his son, Cal. The younger Rickert was a four-year letterman for his father and is a sophomore infielder at Slippery Rock (Penn.) University.
The opportunity to watch his son play college baseball was the impetus for Rickert’s decision to step away now.
“My son is playing college ball and he is about as healthy as he’s been in two years,” Rickert said. “They play their league games on Fridays and Saturdays and I’d like to be able to go there and see him play. If they played on Sundays, maybe it would be different.”
During Rickert’s tenure, the Rams played the most rugged non-conference schedule in north central Ohio. Madison would schedule in-state games against perennial powerhouses and would regularly take spring trips to take on teams from southern states that had been playing regular season games for weeks.
“We played anybody. Some people say that, but we really did,” Rickert said. “We went everywhere we could go to try to get our kids the best competition, not only because we thought it would help us get in the tournament, but because we thought it would help them get into college.”
Including his son, Rickert sent 48 former players to the collegiate level. Six of them, Daniel Lunsford, Rory Meister, Cory Rupert, Courtney Steele, Ricky Marshall and Zane Harris, signed with Division I schools.
“We’re really proud of that. That’s a big deal. I had some good talent, but we also had kids who worked,” Rickert said. “We worked really hard on the mental part of the game. We put our kids in situations where they were going to fail.
“There’s no other sport like this sport. You’re going to fail 70 percent of the time and if you do, you’re going to the Hall of Fame.”
Rickert was also quick to point out the support system in place for his players.
“I had great parents and I had great assistant coaches. You can’t do this job well without getting help,” he said. “I had assistants who, if we were playing a doubleheader on a Saturday at 10 o’clock, they would be out working on the field at 5:30 in the morning. That is amazing.
Rickert, who played collegiately at Ashland and Appalachian State, would like to get someone in place as soon as possible. As athletic director, he’s in the unusual position of hiring his successor.
“I know the timing isn’t great, I know that. But I wanted to see where Cal’s health was,” Rickert said. “We’ll post the opening internally and we’ll see if anyone within the system wants it. If not, then we’ll go outside the system.”
Rickert wasn’t ready to rule out a return to the game he loves.
“I love working with kids and I love teaching,” Rickert said. “That part I still love to death and would do for the rest of my life.
“I wrestled with this decision, but there are still some other things I want to do with my life.”