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High school softball: Longtime area coach Bill Matthews retiring after 33 years, 526 wins

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    Vermilion softball coach Bill Matthews is retiring after 33 years, the last three with the Sailors. He has 526 career wins.

    CHRONICLE FILE

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Bill Matthews isn’t exactly sailing into retirement, but he has decided to step down as Vermilion’s softball coach.

Just a week after retiring following 38 years of teaching — 35 in Amherst and three in Toledo — Matthews decided his days as a high school head coach were over, too.

“I have a couple of business opportunities in front of me and, depending on what I decide, they would take up time during the winter months which means I would not be able to give 100 percent effort to lifting and winter workouts,” Matthews said in an email announcing the move.

“A new younger coach needs to come in and continue building a program from the ground up. Assistant coach Norm Frindt and I over the past three years have changed the culture of Sailor softball. And the players worked hard and tasted success this year with our fun run to the district championship game.”

Matthews spent 33 seasons as a high school softball head coach — one at Hamilton Ross, 29 at Amherst and three at Vermilion. He also coached football for 14 years, wrestling for 13 and track for two.

“It’s all been fun,” he said during a phone interview Monday night. “The nice thing about it is I’ve met some nice people along the way and worked with some great kids.

“I’ve coached grandkids of girls that I coached when I first started in 1984. It’s been fun seeing them grow up, become adults and being part of their lives … sending them gifts when they have kids and going to graduation parties and stuff like that.”

Matthews compiled a 526-260 record during his coaching career. He’s one of just a couple dozen Ohio coaches who’ve reached the 500-win milestone and his 526 wins are second in Lorain County to only Elyria High’s Ken Fenik (595).

Matthews was named the Northeast district coach of the year twice, the Southwestern Conference coach of the year seven times and was named Lorain County’s Division II coach of the year this season. He was inducted into the Ohio Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

“It’s more about the relationships than anything else,” he said. “The awards I got were because of the kids that played for me and the coaches that coached with me.”

While Matthews doesn’t envision himself heading a high school softball program again, he can’t see himself walking away from the sport completely.

“I’ll still be involved with softball somehow, but there’s a big difference between being an assistant coach and a head coach,” he said. “The three years I spent as an assistant coach at Keystone (2014-16) were fun. It’s just a lot less hassle and a lot less time.”

He also thinks he’ll stay involved in summer travel ball, as well.

“To a point, yeah, I think I will,” he said. “That kind of depends on some things, too. Whether it’s putting on clinics or doing some lessons — I don’t know, I haven’t really figured it out.”

Matthews believes Vermilion softball is headed in the right direction, with a young group of talented players coming up and with the next coach being selected by athletic director Andy Stillman — “Quite honestly, he’s the best AD I’ve ever worked with,” Matthews said — and feels it improved each year he was at the helm.

“It wasn’t just me, Norm Frindt had a big part in it, we kind of steadied the ship I guess and changed the culture, and hopefully they can continue,” Matthews said. “All I know is the three years we were there we had fun, got things situated right and last year had fun with the kids and had fun making that run in the tournament.”

It was such an enjoyable final season, Matthews wanted to extend it one more day. He plans on being in attendance tonight at LaGrange Community Park for the Lorain County Senior All-Star Softball Game.

“I already told (Vermilion players) Maggie (Hoffman) and Corah (Peterson) that I was going to be out there and I wanted to see them play for the last time,” he said.

Contact Shaun Bennett at (440) 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.


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