Casey Sullivan

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Casey Sullivan is taking over as the Fruita Monument baseball coach after being an assistant for the Wildcats since 2009. Ray McLennan is retiring from teaching at the end of this school year and decided to also retire from coaching.

Growing up in Meeker, Casey Sullivan played three sports because, as he put it, you need to do something in a small town.

He played basketball, football (where he holds the record for longest punt in Meeker High School history at 67 yards) and baseball. The diamond struck a chord with him that the other sports didn’t, and he played baseball in junior college.

Now, he’s the new baseball coach at Fruita Monument High School after being an assistant since 2009.

“I’ve been at this for so long and didn’t want to have unanswered questions on whether or not I could make it as a coach. Because once you leave coaching, it’s tough to get back in,” said Sullivan, who also teaches global studies at Fruita 8/9 School. “Working with the kids is where it’s at. My mom knew I was going to be a teacher by the time I was in sixth grade.”

In high school, Sullivan attended the Alpine Bank National Junior College World Series in Grand Junction. After sizing up the guys on the diamond, he knew that baseball gave him the clearest path to playing sports in college.

But the skill level at McCook Community College in McCook, Nebraska, and Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely caught him off-guard.

“I didn’t get a lot of playing time in junior college. That was a shock at the time, but I spent a lot of time with the coaches. I learned the game, but the biggest thing I learned was how to build relationships and how to teach players with different learning styles,” Sullivan said.

After his playing days were over, Sullivan went to then-Mesa State College to earn his teaching degree. He graduated in 2009 and was teaching in Fruita a few months later.

As a student teacher, Sullivan’s mentor teacher urged him to volunteer for the baseball team. Not long after, he joined the staff and was put in charge of the freshman team.

“My first year was tough. I wasn’t sold on coaching and struggled to find out what my style and philosophy were. But the other coaches just told me to stick with it,” Sullivan said. “The next year was phenomenal.”

Those early years helped mold Sullivan into what he is today. He describes himself as a mellow guy who’s focused on building relationships with his players and connecting with them on a human level.

Sullivan has big shoes to fill. He’s the successor to Ray McLennan, who compiled a 158-95 overall record and 85-37 record in league play in 14 seasons. The Wildcats have won the past six Southwestern League titles.

Outside of work, Sullivan is a family man. He and his two brothers — Bradley and Joe — own a hunting outfitter company called Sullivan Bros. Outfitting.

“We outfit and guide people on big-game hunts. The three of us are really close and we love hunting, so we figured this was a good idea,” Sullivan said. “It’s not a big business, but we get some clients every year and have great experiences with people from all over the country.”

Sullivan also has three sons with his wife, Erin.

That love for family, community and baseball is why Sullivan wanted this job.

“It’s nice to be around town. I love this community, and I love talking with the kids and parents. I’m excited for the baseball stuff, and nervous about the logistics like ordering uniforms, scheduling, all of that stuff. But, I’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said. “Coaching, to me, has a lot to do with connecting with the players. I don’t have dreams of coaching collegiately, I just want to give kids guidance.”