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West Branch coach Mulinix goes out on top

Warriors' skipper to step down after winning state title

Staff photo / Preston Byers. West Branch head coach Rick Mulinix looks on during the Warriors' state championship game against Hamilton Badin on Sunday in Akron.

AKRON — If Rick Mulinix had it his way, he would not have been West Branch’s head baseball coach this season.

“I actually wrote my resignation letter last year and turned it into Mike Helm and the AD’s office,” Mulinix said. “I took it and I handed it to him. I said, ‘Hey, I think it’s time.’ And he looked at it, he rolled it up and threw it in the trash can and said, ‘No, it’s not. You’re going one more.'”

Mulinix, a West Branch graduate, reluctantly stuck around for one final year, and as it turns out, Helm was right.

Ranked as one of the best Division II teams in the state all season, the Warriors overcame multiple deficits and escaped seemingly bleak circumstances this postseason to make it to their first state title game in 51 years and win the first state championship in program history Sunday in a 3-2 upset of Hamilton Badin in Akron.

“So thank you Mike Helm, I guess,” Mulinix said with a laugh. “If I knew this was going to be the case, I wouldn’t have done that.”

Now that the trophy has been lifted and the ultimate goal achieved, Mulinix will not be denied anymore; he is stepping down as West Branch head coach.

“It’s time,” Mulinix said. “It’s time for someone else to take over and continue this tradition of West Branch baseball.”

Mulinix said he is not looking for a new, better-paying head coaching job, and he’s not leaving baseball behind. In fact, he said he plans on helping the team out next season as an assistant.

“There’s just stuff that you have to deal with [as head coach] that you shouldn’t have to deal with,” Mulinix said. “The things you gotta put up with, the distractions, fundraising, that can take some of the fun out of it.”

Mulinix starred at West Branch until graduating in 1997, at which time he began his college career at Youngstown State. He eventually transferred and finished up his career at Mount Union before making his way back to the Valley, where he served as a coach for United, Marlington and Leetonia.

In 2010, Mulinix returned to West Branch as an assistant coach and eventually ascended to head coach in 2019, succeeding Shawn Alazaus, who became a Warriors assistant.

Before he became a head coach, though, it became clear to Mulinix that a group of local kids, his son Boston among them, had the potential to be special.

Mulinix and many of their fathers repeatedly tested the children on the baseball diamond in hopes the high-pressure moments would benefit them down the line.

Well, they did. When the Warriors needed it most — like trailing 2-0 entering the seventh inning of the state championship final — they came up with game-altering plays in the biggest moments of their baseball careers.

The “plan” Mulinix had dreamed of over a decade ago was finally realized.

“I know every coach in America says they love their kids and blah blah blah and all that stuff,” Mulinix said. “I can assure you there’s not a coach that loves his kids more than I do.”

The love is that of a family. There may be no word heard more often from West Branch players and coaches than ‘family,’ and it’s hard to argue.

Many of Mulinix’s best friends are a part of, in one way or another, the Warriors baseball program.

“He’s involved with everything West Branch,” senior third baseman and pitcher Anthony Perry said. “He’s diehard West Branch.

“My parents and Coach Mulinix and his wife, they’re like best friends. He’s over at my house all the time playing cards. He’s truly just always been there for us.”

In addition to fostering a tight-knit community around the team, Mulinix, for all of his apparent distaste for the additional responsibilities of a head coach, shined in the role, winning more than 100 games as the Warriors’ coach.

Nonetheless, he is very much looking forward to next season, when he can focus on coaching again.

“Being an assistant coach allows you to coach. Being a head coach doesn’t allow you to coach sometimes,” Mulinix said. “You got to manage so much stuff and deal with so much crap that’s not baseball-related. And that’s the stuff that wears on you as a coach. And it doesn’t matter if it’s baseball, football or basketball — it’s not the coaching the sport that weighs on you, it’s all the other stuff that you gotta deal with.”

An added benefit of Mulinix’s resignation is that he may be able to enjoy Boston’s senior year more than he would as West Branch’s head coach.

“I’m gonna get to sit there and watch him play football and then baseball, his senior year — if he decides to play. I don’t know. Maybe this might be his last one,” Mulinix said. “I always tell him he gets to decide what he wants to do. It’s his life. If he wants to just hang it up after this, I don’t blame him. Hell of a way to go out, scoring the winning run to win the state championship.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at pbyers@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.

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