After a breakout season last year, the Freedom Patriots found themselves looking for a new baseball coach this summer.
Three-year coach AJ Leppla resigned in June, but by August, the administration had named his replacement: Mason Woodside.
Woodside, 26, built an impressive resume in a very short period of time. As athletic director of Steeleville High School in Steeleville, Ill., Woodside spent two years at the athletic department helm and was head coach of the baseball and basketball teams.
"I was really busy those first two years," Woodside said.
Woodside is just three years removed from the University of Southern Illinios. The framed diploma in physical and health education hadn't even had the chance to accumulate dust. And Woodside might still be chasing a major league baseball dream if it weren't for a broken fibula that complicated his ability to pitch.
"I was being recruited by some teams in high school but I could never get past that broken fibula," Woodside said. "Every time I would land on that leg, the pain would come back."
He was far from finished with his career in sports.
Woodside played basketball in high school, too, not far away from Steeleville where he would teach and coach. He continued basketball in junior college before making the move to Southern Illinois and deciding to focus more on his education.
The move has paid early dividends.
Woodside has moved into a great role at a growing school with a solid baseball program years before his 30th birthday. Last season, the Patriots went 15-10 and were runners up in Class 7A District 9. District 9 is one of the more competitive districts in the county. The top four finishers from last season, Steinbrenner, Freedom, Wiregrass Ranch and Gaither, combined for a record of 70-34. Just five players graduated from that team.
"This seems like a great place to build a program," said Woodside, who was out prepping the Freedom field with players this week. "It seems like the support from the coaches and teachers is going to be there."