This was not quite how Lake Dallas baseball coach Chris Haney envisioned his first year at the school going.
Coming into the helm as a first-year head coach, Haney was excited and ready to start building his foundation at his new program. He was just a few weeks in, saying how magnificent his new job was.
But while disappointment emanates from Haney that he was not able to complete his first full season as a head coach, he feels worse for his players and his seniors, who never got the chance to ultimately finish what they started this year and continue moving up the ladder after they hit the right note on the field just before the season was canceled.
“Right when I felt like we were both all trending in a good direction and really figuring each other out and hitting a groove, we hit a screeching halt,” Haney said. “It’s definitely been a letdown. I just feel bad for the kids. All the time that they put in, the effort, sacrifice, the fall workouts, the early mornings, the delayed gratification is very hard for high school kids to understand that sometimes – and they did it.
“It became time for them to have the opportunity for them to go out and play. That was taken from them. Once again, nothing that they can control. That’s definitely got to be tough. That really hurt. Anyone that lost an opportunity to play baseball sucks, but for those seniors it really hurt.”
Haney, who brought over a wealth of championship experience as an assistant for a Colleyville Heritage team that won a 2019 5A state title and had the No. 2 overall MLB draft pick on its roster (Bobby Witt Jr.), was taking over a program coming off a highly eventful and successful year on the diamond the season prior.
In 2019, Lake Dallas had a remarkable finish to the campaign under head coach Ryan Howard, who moved up to the 6A level and just completed his first year at Coppell. After sitting below .500 for much of the schedule, the Falcons rattled off nine wins in the next 11 games and proceeded to go all the way to the regional semifinals.
One year later, Haney felt the culture he wanted was instilled and that things were beginning to come together just before District 8-5A play was set to begin.
“I guess the most important part is I think we were starting to get a feel for each other,” Haney said. “The No. 1 thing you want to do is come in and establish your culture, your expectations – not only on the field, but off the field. That’s something that we got to talk about all fall and try to groom, but actually putting it into practice you have to wait until the season.”
Lake Dallas compiled a 3-9-1 record in a challenging pre-district schedule that featured two 5A state-ranked teams – including his former school in Heritage at No. 13 and No. 18 Grapevine – and Haney saw the growth from his kids every step of the way.
Although Lake Dallas got just 13 games to really settle in instead of the typical full slate, Haney is gratified for the time he did get to spend with the players and the time he got to create the program he envisioned.
“That was the one thing that hurt the most was I was really looking forward to get more time under my belt,” Haney said. “But really thankful for the 13 games I did get with those seniors. They were extremely helpful as far as helping me navigate through my first year.”
The Falcons will transition to a new-look district in 2021 in the latest UIL realignment by shifting to 6-5A. There will be some familiar faces in the district with old 8-5A foes in Denton, Denton Ryan and Justin Northwest, but they will have some new opponents in Heritage, Birdville and Richland following the moves of Little Elm and Denton Braswell to 6A and The Colony going to 10-5A.
Haney is excited for the challenge that brings and the talented group he will bring back, but he will also miss a strong senior class that helped forge the culture he wanted in year No. 1.
“I had some guys that were on a team that made a good playoff run last year, so they had some of that experience that it takes to understand some of the sacrifices and behind the scenes work that you have to do to go that far,” Haney said. “Kind of the success there that they’ve had in the past and success that they had as juniors, putting in work in the summer kind of really made it easy for them to adapt and be role models for some of those younger guys.
“That was the huge part for them was they were able to pick it up on the fly and help lay that groundwork for some of those younger guys.”