Earlier this month at the Lynn Classical softball awards banquet, coach Chris Warren said an emotional good-bye to his five seniors and they in turn praised his excellent leadership, each speaking about the positive experience high school softball was and the many wonderful memories they will take to college.
Warren also announced the team captains for 2015, which would have been his 16th season as the leader of one of the city’s most successful programs.
Warren told the Lynn Journal this week that he will be stepping down as softball coach after being named vice principal of the high school. He joins principal Gene Constantino and vice principals Amy Dunn and Dennis Thompson in administrative roles at the school. He previously served as an acting vice principal.
“It’s one of those bittersweet situations,” said Warren. “I met with the players last Thursday and it was not a good feeling. It was a sad meeting.”
Ivy Martin, a returning senior pitcher and captain-elect, returned from a family vacation to attend the team meeting.
“God bless Ivy Martin. She knew what the meeting was all about and she came down just for the meeting during her vacation with her family,” said Warren.
Martin, a talented 6-foot athlete who also competes in volleyball and indoor track at Classical, said it’s been a time of mixed emotions for the players.
“I think it’s definitely bittersweet,” said Martin. “I’m very happy for coach Warren but at the same time it’s very difficult for the team and me. The team meeting was very emotional. Mr. Warren helped me develop so much mentally and physically as a softball pitcher. He knew when to push me. He called my pitches and gave me a great playing experience, telling me that my team always had my back no matter what. He’s very supportive and always keeps me motivated, healthy and strong.”
Martin said she appreciated Warren’s passion for softball.
“He puts so much spirit and love into this sport and that will never leave the team,” said Martin.”
Martin addressed her teammates during Warren’s farewell meeting.
“I told the team that even though coach Warren is leaving, he’ll always be there for us,” said Martin. “Even though he’ll be in a suit and tie instead of a softball uniform, we’ll still be able to talk with him and he’ll be there for us. I know that he instilled the spirit and love of the sport into us enough that I know the girls will be able to transfer it to the new coach and keep the enthusiasm going.”
Warren’s Lady Rams program was held in high regard in Lynn and throughout the state. He guided the Rams to 13 state tournament appearances in 15 seasons. His teams claimed four Northeastern Conference titles and compiled a 41-game NEC winning streak that covered four seasons.
His 2003 team advanced to the Division 1 North final, upsetting undefeated and top-ranked Reading, 1-0, along the way.
Warren, who was a star quarterback at English in its only Super Bowl season, said as a coach his goal was to make playing softball at Classical a positive experience for the players. “I think that’s what high school sports is all about.”
Warren organized team trips to Disney World. In fact, this year’s team enjoyed a wonderful video at the banquet highlighting its visit to Orlando in April. The Rams have also traveled to Cape Cod for preseason games weather permitting.
“You build a camaraderie and a bond in our program. We host team dinners. I really welcome the players in to my family and they become family. That part of the coaching for me is going to be tough to replace.”
Warren was proud of the total softball experience that his program offered to players.
“With four schools in the city, I had to separate myself to give the kids a choice that I wanted them to say, ‘I want to go to Classical. That’s the program I want to be involved with.’ I think as a coaching staff we’ve done a pretty good job in that aspect.”
Warren said he is thankful to the players, the parents, and the administrators such as director of athletics Bill Devin and principal Gene Constantino.
“To have this position as coach at Classical, I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I decided to enter the field of coaching 22 years ago when Alisa Fila told me about her friend, Shelley Kennedy, who needed a coach at Classical. I was with Shelley for two years. I was an assistant coach with Steve Gravin for six years and I went for the head coaching job and that’s when Mr. [William] Frost and Mr. [Dick] Ruth gave me the opportunity as a head coach 15 years ago.”
Warren also thanked his current assistant coaches, Lauren Phelps, Kristen Dean, Christine Nerich, and Nicole Oak and other assistants such as Lysa Newhall, Terry Ward, and Oliver Toomey.
“You’re only as good as your coaches. I’ve always said that. The kids really look to them and respond to them.”
Warren said he will miss the NEC coaching fraternity. “Coach Dave Guffey of Winthrop has become a dear friend and does the camp [Diamonds in the Rough] with me.”
Warren said he will most likely continue directing his softball camp. He also intends to help coach his daughter Brooke’s team in the East Lynn/West Lynn/Pine Hill softball league. His son, Brady, plays baseball in East Lynn Little League. He and his wife, Leah, also have a daughter, Brenna.
“I have to give my wife a lot of credit,” said Warren. “Without her and all the extra time and commitment she puts in to our family, it gives me the opportunity to coach. She was the brains behind a lot of the stuff we do, between organizing fundraisers and team dinners and creating logos for the hats and t-shirts and deciding the wonderful senior gifts we give to the kids.”
Warren expects that as a vice principal and former assistant director of athletics he will have a role on the selection committee for the next coach at Classical.
“I’d like to see someone who’s going to give the effort and the commitment to the kids that I gave,” said Warren. “I would think that I will be one of the people on the selection committee.”
The process of picking a new coach will begin in September.