By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — He'll be inducted into state Hall of Fame tonight
TRAVERSE CITY — The search for a new softball coach at Traverse City St. Francis ended before it even began.
Mike Doriot, who guided the Gladiators as a powerhouse on the diamond over his 17 years at the helm of the program, has decided to return after two years away from the bench.
The process for Doriot's return came from a lunch meeting between Doriot and St. Francis athletic director Tom Hardy a few months ago. Hardy was looking for input from Doriot regarding the Gladiators' softball head coach opening.
"I just wanted to talk to him about his thoughts and what I was going to do and he said, 'well, I just sold my business so I freed up the time that I was concerned about not having when I retired two years ago,'" said Hardy, who hadn't even posted the opening. "It worked out perfect. With someone like Mike, there's no interview. When the guy that built your field and knows when blade No. 462 in row 13 is out of place because he cuts it all the time — when he says he wants to come back — there's no conversation. To have him back with our kids — he's such a solid, steady influence on kids. We're lucky."
Doriot had an inkling that the meeting might lead to his return. He said with the time factor between work and coaching out of the way, something that caused him to step down two years ago, it was an easy decision.
"I thought if I'm going to come back, I might not get another chance," said Doriot. "So I made the move.
"With me being retired I've got a lot more time. I don't have to worry about going over there at lunch hour and lining the fields or leaving work early. That stress is all gone."
Doriot wasn't totally removed from the St. Francis program over the past two years. He remained active maintaining the Gladiators' field and also still coached the team's pitchers. But not being a part of the squad as the head coach left a void.
"I missed it. As it wore on I missed it more," he said. "I played fast pitch for 20 years. The game gets in your blood and it's in my blood."
Doriot, who also coached the St. Francis junior varsity for seven years, compiled a record of 489-147 in his previous stint with the Gladiators. Included in that are nine conference titles, 16 district titles, seven regional crowns, three trips to the state semifinals and a runner-up finish in 2001. That success earned Doriot a spot in the Michigan Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted tonight in Lansing as part of the Class of 2014, along with Debbie Norman of Allen Park Cabrini and Barry Patterson of Garden City. The ceremony is part of the annual state coaches clinic.
"It was totally unexpected," said Doriot. "When I used to go down to the coaches clinics 20 years ago, sitting there listening to those people. All the wins they had. I never dreamed I'd be sitting there."
Hardy will introduce Doriot before his induction speech.
"I'm just going to tell everybody that he's thrilled because if (the coaches association) knew he was coming back to coach before he got inducted, (it) probably wouldn't have (inducted him) if he was still coaching. We wanted to keep it a secret until today."
As far as the upcoming season is concerned, Doriot sees a lot of potential for more success for St. Francis.
"We're going to be solid. We have good pitching. We have some quality players. I think we'll do real well," he said.
Hardy said he's excited about his daughters Olivia, a senior, and Julia, a sophomore, getting the opportunity to be coached by the Hall of Famer. That was one of the disappointments Hardy had two years ago when Doriot stepped aside.
"I was really disappointed for that because I know what he's done and he's been such a steady influence on so many people's lives," said Hardy. "Both personally and professionally I was just thrilled to have him back."