MOUNT VERNON — The goal has been to win, but that was never the purpose. From the time Keith Veale took the reins of the baseball program at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in 1989, his most important wins have been in the relationships he has developed off the field.
As Coach Veale reached his 1,000th win as a coach, there are many who would agree that there are no numbers that can count his most important wins. The record, however, is impressive. Since the Cougars defeated Hanover on March 9, 1989, Coach Veale-led teams have racked up nine conference titles and five National Christian College Athletic Association World Series championships.
Despite eclipsing the thousand win mark versus Indiana Wesleyan on Monday and raising his career record to 1,000-515, He and his players don’t really talk about the wins. The impact that Coach Veale has had on his players lives is the what they really want to talk about. That becomes more apparent when you listen to players, who moved on years ago.
Now living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, McLeary learned how to be successful — on and off the field.
“We made it the NAIA Collegiate World Series in my junior year and we ended up with a 43-3 record,” McLeary said. “There were seven or eight of us on that team that went through and started all four years.”
McLeary came to the Cougars from Mansfield Christian High School. When he got to MVNU, Veale converted him from a catcher to a pitcher. After four years of college, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 10th round in 1997, playing 14 years of professional ball. That included big league stints in the with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres.
It has been Veale’s teaching that has made him successful in the rest of his life.
“It starts from the top,” McLeary said. “(MVNU) is faith-based and he runs a Christ-like program. He is the type of guy that I would like my kids coached by. I have carried on what I learned from him, from a moral and ethical perspective, including the raising of my kids.”
Kodi Veale, coach Veale’s son, was also a former player. After graduating from Mount Vernon High School, the younger started at MVNU in the fall of 2007.
“We averaged about 20 wins a season (at MVNU),” Kodi Veale said. “We were always competing for the top of the conference and, in may last two years there, we went to the national tournament.”
Despite all of the on field success, it was Coach Veale’s commitment and care that reminded his players about the important things in life.
“It starts with good coaching and good principles,” the younger Veale said. “There is a camaraderie there, where the guys really pull for each other. It was always stressed, while I was there, that we will always remember our time on the field, but we will take, from our time here, all of our relationships here and how we grow as men.”
Mount Vernon’s Scott Dapprich has coached the Yellow Jackets on different sports for years. Along the way, he has tried to pass down the teaching of coach Veale.
“You could not get a better coach or person in charge of your program,” Dapprich said. “He gets the most out of all his players. It comes down to having a relationship with them, both on and off the field.”
Dapprich was at MVNU from 1994 to 1997 and was part of a very successful run.
“He has been a father figure to us, as well as a mentor,” Dapprich said. “Just a really, great communicator, not just of baseball, but of life.”
Coach Veale is quick to point out that these skills were passed down to him and that he is only giving back.
“You don’t generate those things on your own,” Coach Veale explained. “You develop them through a myriad of influences. First of all, it starts with my parents and the values they raised me with. I’m forever grateful for that. I also had the good fortune to begin me coaching career under Sam Riggleman, who coached here (at MVNU) for 10 years and I assisted him for seven of those years.”
Mentoring is a process that Veale continues to do with his older players. MVNU coach Ross Yoder, who played for Veale from 2006-7, currently patrols the third base coaching box for the Cougars. As an assistant coach, Yoder has gone on to attain his master’s degree and teaches leadership in the business world
“I get to take some of the things that I learned from Coach Veale, into that world,” Yoder said. “We do a lot of character development-type of stuff.”
Todd Reid has coached at Olivet Nazarene University for the past, 22 seasons, but he recalls his days at MVNU.
“I played for him and he was able to mentor me as a coach,” Reid said. “I feel twice blessed to have had the opportunity to both play for him and coach alongside him. I have even coached against him. My wife even worked with him, when he did a short stint as the softball coach at (MVNU).”
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