Ralph Lunsford made a difficult decision, but he’s confident it’s the right one.
Lunsford is the new head baseball coach at Edgewood High School after directing New Miami for the last five seasons. He led the Vikings to their first sectional championship in more than 30 years this spring.
“I’ve made such great friends at New Miami. It was beyond hard, but I thought the timing was right,” Lunsford said. “When you can come to a quality program like Edgewood, it’s just time to stick your toes in the water and see what happens.
“I talked about it a lot with my wife, prayed about it a lot with my wife, and there’s not a doubt in my mind this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s time to be a Cougar, and it’s a good time to be a Cougar, so we made the jump.”
Lunsford, 52, was 59-59 and captured four Miami Valley Conference Gray Division championships at New Miami.
He replaces Matt Root, who stepped down after six seasons as Edgewood’s head coach. Root is continuing in his role as offensive coordinator for the Cougars football team.
“Coaching two sports, I’m basically just gone way too much,” said Root, who has a 2-year-old daughter. “I felt like the right thing to do was to get someone in there that will just coach baseball and spend all their time worried about baseball rather than me doing six months baseball, six months football. It’ll be the best thing for the baseball program, the best thing for the football program, and it’ll be better for me being at home with my family.”
Root, 30, is a 2005 Edgewood graduate and one of the top quarterbacks in EHS football history. He was 79-78 as the head baseball coach, going 13-15 in 2017.
“It was an incredibly hard decision to step down,” Root said. “I talked with many people about it before I ever did it. I love the baseball program. But the passion I have for Edgewood football is just so huge I couldn’t walk away from it. I think I’m going to be a football coach for a long time now.
“I’m sure it’ll be hard for me next year when I watch some baseball games, but I’m excited for Ralph. He’s got a lot of good players in the program and he’s got some great ideas, so I think he’ll be able to build on what we’ve been doing and take it to another level and hopefully win some championships.”
Edgewood athletic director Greg Brown said he was surprised by Root’s decision, but he understood his desire to spend more time with his family.
“I respect him for it,” Brown said. “With the group he’s got coming back, I knew he was serious about stepping down. I’ve coached a long time too, and when you resign and you’ve got a great group coming back, you really mean it.”
Brown said Lunsford, who has already received school-board approval, separated himself as the top candidate during the interview process.
“I really respected what Ralph did at New Miami,” Brown said. “He had all the ingredients, being able to discipline and being able to build relationships with student-athletes. He came in with a game plan in the interview process. He had a clear vision that mapped out what he wanted to do.
“The good thing is, he doesn’t have to start from scratch here. Matt did such a great job with this program. These kids have been taught well. Now we’re getting a quality guy to take the ball and run with it.”
Rising senior pitcher Ethan McCarty, a recent commit to Ball State University, will be among the returnees for the Cougars next season.
Lunsford lives in West Alexandria and works as the director of safety, security and compliance for Victory Wholesale Grocers in Springboro.
He is making baseball his coaching focus, also giving up his positions as a varsity assistant football coach and junior high boys basketball coach at New Miami.
“Not coaching football or basketball anymore, I’m looking forward to doing some offseason baseball stuff that Matt wasn’t able to do while coaching football,” Lunsford said. “I respect Matt tremendously. Edgewood’s facilities are top notch. Their number of kids is top notch. Even though we’re a small D-I, it’s still D-I.
“I want to play with the big boys. I want to see what’s out there. I told my son that if I’m going to get dressed up and go somewhere, I want to go to the prom. I want to be in a tux, and I think this is the place for that.”
Lunsford said he won’t forget his time at New Miami, especially the Vikings’ run to the district finals this spring. He came to New Miami during Jim Jewett’s tenure as head football coach.
“Jim came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you come help me at New Miami?’ I remember going, ‘Why do I want to go to New Miami?’ ” Lunsford said. “I walked in there the first day, and there’s just something about New Miami. It grabs your heartstrings.”
Because he’s not a teacher, Lunsford believes it will be important for him to get around and watch multiple Edgewood sports in the fall, and he plans to do just that. Offseason baseball workouts will start Sept. 18.
“Whenever you go someplace, you’ve got to build relationships,” Lunsford said. “You have to know the people you’re going to coach, and not just the kids. You’ve got to know mom and dad and sometimes grandma and aunts and uncles and little brothers.”
He replied quickly when asked about the trademark of a Ralph Lunsford athletic squad.
“Nobody will ever outwork us,” he said. “One of my heroes in coaching is Woody Hayes, and Woody always said, ‘Nobody will outwork me.’ Well, I never got to meet Woody, but if I’d have met him, I’d have told him, ‘I’ll outwork you.’
“I think we established that at New Miami. We’re going to be class on the field and class off the field, we’re going to compete every time out, and we will outwork everybody. That’s not a cliche. I mean that.”