At 27, baseball had taken a back seat in Joe Pat Terango's life.
Terango, a former all-stater at Roosevelt-Wilson and All West Virginia Conference selection at Salem-Teikyo, had just accepted a teaching job in Louden County, Va., after a stint in southern Florida where he had taught school and played in a summer baseball league.
Like any player who has ever put on a baseball cap, Terango had thoughts about playing at the next level. When his break didn't come, he found himself shying away from the game he had spent his entire life playing.
"When I was in college, I always thought about playing in the minor leagues or some kind of instructional league," Terango said. "I went to Florida to play and get more opportunities, but things didn't pan out the way I wanted them to.
"It's tough when you have to realize your dream is over. You just have to face facts. It was tough for me, but I knew I had to move on. For a while, I even quit watching baseball on TV."
After serving as an assistant at Parkview High School in Virginia, the desire came back, and most importantly, a big break.
Potomac Falls High School had just been completed in nearby Sterling, Va., and the baseball team was in need of a coach. Terango accepted the position and has slowly built the school into the upper echelon of the Northwestern District League.
"At first, I didn't realize how hard these coaching jobs are to come by," Terango said. "When I got here, I told some people I would be interested in coaching baseball. I got an assistant job, and then people started pouring into this area."
The once rural Louden County which was home to just two high schools is now listed as the second fastest growing counties in the United States next to Clark County, Nev. A growing economy has led to six new schools in Louden County -- Potomac Falls being one of them.
This season, Terango has helped lead Potomac Falls to a 10-4 start and a No. 2 ranking its conference. One of his assistants, Sam Plank, is a former baseball player at West Virginia University.
Things weren't always easy, though. For the school's first two years, it had to play in the Class AAA, Division 6 classification -- a group which has the largest schools in the state.
In his first year, Terango guided a team made up of mainly freshmen and sophomores to a one-win season. It didn't get much better the next year, as the school won just three times, but Terango could see improvement. This season, however, Potomac Falls is where it belongs in Class AA and Terango has returned to his familiar winning form.
"Our goals never changed from two years ago to this year," he said. "Even when we won just one game, our goal was to win a championship. Last year, we won just three games, but lost nine, one-run games.
"Nothing about what we do here has changed. Every day, we go through fundamental exercises. We practice on how to grip the baseball, field the baseball and throw the baseball," Terango said.
"Fundamental things, but they're things all of these kids do the same whether they're seniors or freshmen. We took our lumps the first couple of years, but it's starting to pay dividends," Terango said.
Terango, who lives in Charles Town, still keeps in contact with state coaches. Terango has developed a friendship with Jefferson coach John Lowery, working his camps in the summer and scrimmaging them in the preseason. Next season, Terango is hoping to be part of a field of teams which is in the making for a tournament at Jefferson.
Terango even said he would like the opportunity to play friend and Liberty coach Pete Iquinto if the Mountaineers make a trip to the eastern panhandle next season. Potomac Falls has wins over Hedgesville this year and scheduled to play Martinsburg later this season.
"I like it here," Terango said. "I've thought about moving on to the next level in coaching, but it probably won't happen. I'll probably coach here for a while. Some day I'd like to get my master's in biology as something to fall back on, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing."
Sportswriter Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.