After six years with the Caldwell County High School softball program — either as a top assistant or a head coach — David Choate is on to new challenges.
Earlier this week, the Princeton native and CCHS graduate (Class of ‘93) announced his resignation on good terms, following a promising season that never came to fruition due to the coronavirus.
And now, he’s ready to pass the program on to new and eager minds, with his daughter — Madi — turning to Asbury University softball this fall, and his son — Bro — just entering the sports landscape.
“It’s just the right time,” Choate said. “My son is 8 years old. He needs me. And, as a dad, I missed so much with Madi. I don’t know if Bro is going to play baseball. He loves basketball, and I know nothing about basketball. I’m one of four brothers, and I’m the only (dang) one that didn’t play basketball. I was short, fat, and had a terrible attitude.”
Clearly, former CCHS athletic director David Barnes ignored those self-imposed negative traits, when — prior to the 2015 high school softball season — he called Choate into his office for a chat.
The next day, CCHS softball coach Mickey Walls rang Choate, too, and hired him as an assistant on the recommendations of Barnes.
“I had no idea it was an interview, and we talked for two hours,” Choate said. “I walked into his office, and we just talked. It’s situational. ‘What would you do when the kids are doing this?’ We’re just talking. And that’s all I think it is. He didn’t mention anything when I left, and I got the call the next day (from Mickey Walls).”
The Lady Tigers would finish 11-26 that year, but not without making it the Seventh District title game and the ensuing Second Region Tournament for the first time since 2006 — courtesy of a narrow 3-2 win over Hopkins County Central on May 18, 2015.
That roster had all the strong pieces that would go on to propel the team over the next five years: Madi, J’Amiee Burke, Katie Franklin, Mashea Glover, Chandra Litchfield, Karlie Rennison, Emma Staples and Peyton Young. And others, like Majah Hollowell, Ilyssa Stallins, Haley Stiles and Allie Felker, would soon join.
After finishing 18-11 and just missing the Second Region Tournament in 2016, the Lady Tigers roared from 2017-19, going 52-38 with three Seventh District runner-up finishes, as well as a Second Region All “A” crown and a Second Region runner-up crown in 2018.
Choate was officially named head coach prior to the 2019 season, alongside a staff that included Chad Rennison, as well as David and Cindy Franklin, and the Lady Tigers closed the year winning 11 of the last 14 games — including bouts against Lyon County, McCracken County, Graves County, Trigg County and Hopkins County Central.
Permanent nemesis Madisonville-North Hopkins, however, topped them in the Seventh District title game, 3-0, before the Lady Lyons of Eddyville surprised with a gutty 2-0 win in the 2019 Second Region quarterfinals at Webster County High School in Dixon.
“We just peaked at the wrong time,” Choate lamented.
The 2020 season was supposed to be as competitive for Caldwell County, and with a few new faces in the forefront, before cancellations put everything back in the cupboard.
And while the pandemic has come with far more bad than good, Choate has seen one positive.
He found himself.
“I was able to reset,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong; I would’ve traded everything for one more year to coach (Madi). But, I was able to reset. And we’ve been able to do so much stuff at home. I wasn’t getting home every night between 9 and 11. I was getting home at 4:30-5 p.m. And this was a family decision. My entire family helped me make this decision. Pros and cons. It felt right.
“The program is in a helluva lot better shape than what I found it, and that’s what you always want to set out to do as a coach. You want to leave it in a better way than when you received it. It’s a good time. They have a new field. We’ve done a ton of work on it, and it still needs a little more. But I’ve had a great staff around me for these years.”
The search for a new coach begins immediately, and the returning pieces — Felker, Nicole Cravens, Stallins, and others — make this job more than desirable, in what should be a hotly-contested Second Region battle in 2021.
In the meantime, Choate will turn to some 8U youth draft baseball at VFW Ballpark this summer — set for a mid-July start — and continue maintenance on the softball field.
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