Howard takes over at Palisade
Palisade High School Athletic Director Mike Krueger calls Aaron Howard a “really, really good baseball coach,” something he knows firsthand from having Howard as an assistant coach for Krueger’s final two years coaching the Palisade varsity.
He added Howard’s baseball knowledge is vast, the product of playing the game, coming from a good baseball family and learning from the likes of Chris Hanks, Howard’s coach at Colorado Mesa University (2002-04).
But what makes Howard a good coach goes beyond knowledge, Krueger said. Howard, he said, knows how to impart his knowledge. The man can teach, something he’s demonstrated in the classroom at Palisade High.
Next spring, he’ll be teaching on the baseball diamond, too.
Krueger announced Monday the high school hired Howard to be the baseball program’s head coach.
“Aaron is a phenomenal teacher in the classroom, and that’s why I think he’s a very good coach in baseball,” Krueger said.
Howard succeeds Steve Moore, who resigned May 30 after seven seasons that included four league titles. Moore, the reigning coach of the year in the 4A Western Slope League, said at that time he didn’t want to resign, but he and the school administration could not resolve some differences of opinion on coaching issues.
Howard, who was an assistant coach under Moore for two years and has taught math at Palisade High since 2004, inherits a program that finished 17-3 this spring and 18-3 the year before.
He said his coaching philosophy is simple: “I like to see excellence in everything we do and do the little things right. ... I’m very detail-oriented. ... We’ll stress the fundamentals, work hard, practice with a purpose.”
Howard said baseball has always been his sport, going back to when he was 4 or 5 years old, through his career at Bayfield High School, where he was an all-state player, and his three years as a backup catcher in college. His dad coached the Connie Mack team he played for in the summer in Farmington, N.M.
“Baseball has always been a fixture, always been there,” said Howard, adding he watches the game “all the time” and loves to talk to others about it.
Howard said he benefitted from good coaches throughout his playing days, and Hanks in particular imparted elements Howard wants to instill in Palisade’s players.
“It’s playing hard, striving for excellence, trying to improve every day and not making excuses,” Howard said.
Do that, he said, and you’ll be a winner, regardless of what the team’s record is. And while the Bulldogs have fashioned impressive records in recent years, Howard said he will not gauge success on wins and losses.
“Do I want to win? Sure,” he said, adding he believes the wins will come if the players do what he asks.
He also believes wearing the Palisade jersey is a privilege, and being part of a team provides experiences and rewards beyond a record.
“I just want to make kids better,” he said. “I want to make sure every single kid has a positive experience, that everyone knows they count, they’re important, and they will contribute.”
Moreover, he added, “I want kids to be successful in all areas of their life.”
Howard backs up those words with action, as Krueger said Howard has been instrumental in organizing and designing many successful programs at Palisade, including “Running with the Pack,” which aims to get more kids involved in all Palisade High activities.
Running with the Pack began two years ago, and Howard is happy to say, “It’s been a real good success.”