Chris Shirer entered the home dugout of the Marysville High School softball team last Wednesday, hopped up on the bench and leaned back against the wall. He faced out beyond the third-base line toward the painstakingly manicured field.

Chris Shirer entered the home dugout of the Marysville High School softball team last Wednesday, hopped up on the bench and leaned back against the wall. He faced out beyond the third-base line toward the painstakingly manicured field.

"You won't find a better softball field in the area," said Shirer, filled with pride.

Shirer was in his element. Since 1990, Shirer has been part of the Marysville softball program. His involvement is not confined to the high school season of March through May.

"As coaches, we start getting together Dec. 1," Shirer said. "If you want to be successful, you have to take the time. In December, we'll starting hitting twice a week, throwing twice a week, pitching one day and, on Sundays I'll watch indoor games. It goes from December to the end of May and in that time there's a 27-game schedule." Shirer's dedication has produced success.

On April 3, Marysville's 16-3 win over Raceland (Ky.) gave Shirer his 200th career victory in his 10-year span as Monarchs head coach. Later in the season, the Monarchs won the OCC-Central Division at 10-0 ahead of Thomas Worthington at 6-4 and finished 22-4 following a 7-2 loss to Worthington Kilbourne in a Division I district semifinal.

Shirer's career win total is at 218, nine behind Roger Howard of Tallmadge for 30th on the state's all-time list. Laura Ford is tops with 497, accumulated at Lima Bath from 1984-2007.

Shirer will spend six days per week with softball in some capacity and admits "it has taken a toll." On the positive side, those close to him know where he can be found at all times.

"My daughter always says that my dad can be found one of three places," Shirer said. "At home, at school or at the ball field."

Last Wednesday, Shirer was the first to arrive at the field and was joined by Larry Fox. From 1982-98, Fox coached Marysville and took the Monarchs to their one and only state final four appearance in 1993 where they lost in a semifinal to eventual state champion Akron Springfield 2-1.

Shirer arrived at Marysville in 1978 and two years later was the school's athletics director. In 1982, Shirer hired Fox and from 1990-98 was his assistant coach.

"After the fall season of 1998 was over with, Chris took over and I helped Chris," Fox said.

Fox possesses similar feelings for the softball field as Shirer. Last Wednesday, as the two awaited the arrival of players, Fox walked around the field picking up loose rocks.

He seemed quite content in his role as assistant.

"We go back a long way," Shirer said. "I even played softball against him. I've learned a lot from Larry."

This past season, Shirer was named Coach of the Year in the OCC-Central and Central District for Division I. Shirer credits those around him.

"I tried to build on what Larry started," he said. "I have a great staff here. I have great coaches and they're great guys and I credit them for our success. It's not me."

Shirer has continued to be a student of the game, traveling to Oklahoma and UCLA in search of new tips for his players.

"I like the game," he said. "I've always been around baseball, grew up playing baseball then played fastpitch softball. This is a fast game and it's fun to coach."

It's evident that Shirer's pride in the Marysville softball program extends beyond the baselines.

Although the hard work remains, it is the players and parents who make the time invested worth it to him.

For three decades, Shirer has called Marysville home. He has two kids, two grandchildren with one on the way, and after a 24-year marriage ended in divorce, he married his college sweetheart.

Yet when Shirer has a chance to sit down and reflect on the softball program, he knows where the credit for the success begins and ends.

"We have girls who work hard and this is their sport," Shirer said. "They go out and dedicate themselves, play travel and indoor ball and, along with the staff, the parents have been supportive.

"Marysville has been a good place to raise a family."