Roughriders' Greenwood embracing coaching opportunity

With the bases loaded and two outs in Saturday's game against Miles City (Mont.), Dickinson Roughriders pitcher Michael McChesney was looking for the payoff pitch.He had a 1-2 count and was trying to preserve a one-run lead. His next pitch bounce...

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Press Photo by Parker Cotton New Dickinson Roughriders head coach Stephen Greenwood, right, leaves a mound meeting with Tanner Ouellette, left, and Lucas Jones, June 22 against Minot at Southside Ballpark and Astoria Field.

With the bases loaded and two outs in Saturday’s game against Miles City (Mont.), Dickinson Roughriders pitcher Michael McChesney was looking for the payoff pitch.
He had a 1-2 count and was trying to preserve a one-run lead. His next pitch bounced in front of the plate, but the batter swung for strike three. Or so the Roughriders thought.
The home plate umpire ruled the ball was - ever so slightly - fouled off. The next pitch was also strike three in the dirt, until it too was ruled fouled off. It’s a rare call the first time. The second time, it was preposterous.
Stephen Greenwood had been head coach of the Roughriders for just over a week at that point, but that wasn’t going to stop him from exiting the dugout and arguing the call.
“I’ve been around baseball long enough to know that umpires are human and they make mistakes,” Greenwood said, “but when I feel like my team is getting the short end, I’ll fight for them. I’ll be there for a kid on the field or off the field. I’m not a go-get-in-your-face kind of guy, but when the time is right, I’ll stand up for my team.”
The call remained unchanged, of course, but McChesney got a groundball to end the game on his next pitch, giving the Roughriders their fifth consecutive victory. Sunday’s loss to Wahoo, Neb., snapped that modest win streak, but since Greenwood assumed the head coaching duties following Cory Hansen’s resignation on June 15, Dickinson won nine of its next 13 games.
Since Greenwood took over as head coach, the players have recognized the fight and passion of their new leader.
“It was a huge confidence booster,” McChesney said of Greenwood arguing the call on Saturday. “Throughout the spring season, he showed he has that confidence in us. He throws his heart on the line for us. It means a lot.”
Greenwood was a senior second baseman and pitcher for Dickinson High’s 2004 state championship-winning team, and he played one year of baseball at Bismarck State College before joining Pete Dobitz’s staff as an assistant varsity coach in 2006. Since then, he’s helped the Midgets to state titles in 2007, 2009 and this spring. He’s a former Roughrider as well, which makes his new position as a head coach all the more meaningful.
“I’ve been through Dickinson baseball since I was a little kid until now,” Greenwood said. “Being from here makes me feel proud to be a part of it. I’ve seen all these kids grow up, in a sense. I’ve got some good chemistry with all them.”
And because he gets to spend each spring with most of these same players, Greenwood believes he has a better understanding of how to get the most out of them.
“I knew the kind of atmosphere they performed best in,” he said. “I knew there wasn’t a lot of Xs and Os we had to teach them. … You don’t have to teach them a whole lot new. They play better loose, and I think that’s what I bring to the table. … I think they trust me, and I think they want to play for me because I want the same thing they do.”
Roughriders third baseman Cam Jorda added: “More than anything, (Greenwood) relates to us, and that’s what sets him apart. He knows what we want and what we need to do to win ballgames and have fun at the same time.”
Tanner Ouellette said Greenwood has brought with him a different culture. He leads the team in a new and fresh way, and, so far, the Roughriders have responded well as they’ve brought their record back to .500 at 11-11.
“He’s taken the role really well. Our whole team looks up to him as a positive role model. The way he coaches us, it really fits our team,” Ouellette said. “We’re having fun, and he’s having fun with us.”
Greenwood said he hopes to be “approachable” as a head coach, and he hopes the mutual respect he and the players have for each other will foster that kind of environment.
“They know that I can’t be their friend all the time. I have to be an authority figure at times,” Greenwood said. “We still want the same thing, the same goal. We have big dreams, winning a state championship this year. They know we have to work hard and do things the right way.”
Further, Greenwood said he doesn’t plan to waste this new opportunity of leading a program in a community that means so much to him.
“I tell the kids every day I’m proud to be a part of this,” he said. “To put in the work and the years to have this opportunity - because it’s never guaranteed - is really special to me.”
Cotton is the sports editor for The Press. Call him at 701-456-1214 and tweet him @ByParkerCotton.

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