As a baseball coach, Raydon Leaton, the veteran head coach at Northern Oklahoma-Enid Junior College, has charted a successful course.
Leaton started NOC-Enid’s baseball program in 2001, building a successful and competitive Division II Junior College program. In addition, he served as the school’s athletic director from 2002-2013.
Twice the Jets finished third in the Division II World Series – 2002 in Millington, Tennessee, and 2018 at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid.
The Leaton-led Jets accomplished another goal recently by posting a 42-18 record while capturing the 2019 NJCAA Division II World Series title after edging Mesa (Arizona), 5-4, in front of a large David Allen Ballpark crowd.
“I thought we had a chance to make a run at it based on our third-place finish in 2018. We had most of our offense back and added some good arms and depth on the mound,” Leaton, who was pitching coach at the University of Indianapolis for two seasons, said Monday. “We lost our top two arms, one in March and the other in the last conference series, to injury so depth was definitely needed.
“I hoped our playoff experience would benefit us in the post season and it did,” he added.
Leaton, who pitched collegiately at Connors Junior College prior to graduating from Oklahoma State, was recently honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as the ABCA/National Coach of the Year for NJCAA Division II baseball.
He and other regional and national winners will be honored during the ABCA Convention, Jan. 2-5, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee. Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s head coach, was the NCAA Division I winner while Anthony Gilich of Central Arizona was the NJCAA Division I honoree.
Through his NOC tenure, Leaton has coached numerous players from Stillwater and the surrounding area. Playing on this year’s national championship team was Tanner Neely, a starting sophomore outfielder from Morrison.
I first became acquainted with Leaton when he coached Stillwater’s AA American Legion baseball team – his first head coaching assignment. And, later at Perry where he was the Maroons’ head baseball coach for eight seasons, leading PHS to the state tournament twice.
It became obvious early on that Leaton was destined to experience coaching success because of his work ethic and business-like approach.
Leaton guided Stillwater to a runner-up finish in 1990 in the AA American Legion State Tournament in Pryor. When the state champion – Ada – decided not to attend the national tourney in New Ulm, Minnesota, Stillwater went in its place and finished third in the tournament.
“I am planning on coaching for a while. This will be my 20th year at NOC,” said Leaton, who threw out a first pitch at the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament in 2003.
“We have been to the World Series three of the last six years, so I am enjoying the kids and the success we are having here. Of course, winning makes it fun and keeps me young.”
Ron Holt is a sports columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Holt served as sports editor for more than 30 years and resides in Bixby.