Medina Valley (Castroville)
baseball coach Carl Keller is known for a resemblance to retired professional wrestler Ric Flair.
"I don't think so, but I've had a few guys that stopped me to take my picture,'' Keller said. "I'm about a foot shorter and several million dollars poorer.''
Keller reveals, among other little-known biographical facts, that he has a personal library of over 4,000 books, graduated seventh in his class at San Antonio's St. Mary's University and worked in private business for 16 years before entering the teaching/coaching profession 23 years ago.
Even if he got a late start in coaching, Keller has made up for lost time. He went over the 300-win threshold last month in this his 14th season heading up the school's baseball program. His current record is 307-118.
Medina Valley (17-2, 6-0 in District 29-4A) is ranked No. 4 in the San Antonio Express-News area poll.
In recognition for Medina Valley's active 10-game winning streak and first-place district standing, Keller was selected as San Antonio High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
Baseball is very big in Castroville, and so far this season Medina Valley has shown a great deal of versatility in its 17 wins. At times the Panthers pitching has been superb. Six of their wins have been shutouts and in five others the opponent scored only one run.
"We realize that pitching is 90 percent of the game,'' said Keller, who doubles as his own pitching coach.
The hitting hasn't been shabby either. Medina Valley has scored 11 runs or more on 12 occasions, including its last three games. But the coach wants his team to be able to bunt and hit behind the runner, too.
"We play small-ball when we have to,'' Keller explained. "In fact, we like to play that way.''
Both losses by Keller's team have come at the hands of Class 5A schools, 6-1 to Brandeis (San Antonio) on Feb. 21 and 4-1 to Steele (Cibolo) on March 7.
The Panthers' undisputed star is junior Jonathan Groff
. Named all-state as a sophomore, Groff leads the team in almost every batting and pitching category. He's hitting .483 with 33 RBI and 16 of his hits have gone for extra bases. He also leads in hits, doubles, home runs and is the co-leader in runs.
On the mound, Groff, a left-hander, is 6-1 with a 0.43 ERA, having fanned 60 in 32.1 innings. In a recent District 29-4A showdown with Southside (San Antonio), Groff threw a five-inning one-hitter and struck out 13 in Medina Valley's 12-0 rout.
In another game, Groff threw 18 strikes before missing the strike zone for the first time.
Other hot hitters are sophomore Cody Moos
(.429) and freshman Kyle Moos
In Medina Valley's most recent game before a week-long lull in the schedule, the Panthers blanked Memorial (San Antonio) 16-0. Back-to-back road games, at Uvalde and at Harlandale (San Antonio) await Medina Valley on Thursday and Friday.
"We only have a couple of seniors, but they are pitchers that won't be easy to replace,'' Keller said.
The seniors, Jacob DeVries
and Trevor Moretich
, combined to strike out 24 in a 3-2 victory over McCollum (San Antonio) on March 22.
Medina Valley went 33-3 in 2008 and advanced to the state tournament, losing 7-3 to Texarkana Pleasant Grove in a Class 3A semifinal.
Keller, 61, did his early coaching on the little league diamond. Coming out of college, he ran the family's John Deere business. While serving on the school board, he was encouraged to consider a career change by a former school superintendent.
In addition to his baseball duties, Keller serves as a football assistant, working with the defensive line. He is the social studies department chairman at the school.
Carl and wife Brenda, a history teacher, have four children: Jesse, Joseph, Joshua and Jedediah.