By STEVE KRAH
Kirk Cabana’s life path has been anything but a straight one.
“My journey is not orthodox,” says Cabana.
At 35, Cabana is the new head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College, a National Junior College Athletic Association and Michigan Community College Athletic Association member in Donaldson, Ind.
“It’s such a welcoming community,” says Cabana. “It met me right where I’m at in my growth and development.”
The MCCAA has three divisions: Northern (Alpena, Cay, Delta, Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan and Muskegon), Western (Glen Oaks, Kalamazoo Valley, Kellogg, Lake Michigan, Lansing and and Marian’s Ancilla) and Eastern (Henry Ford, Jackson, Macomb, Mott, Schoolcraft and St. Clair County).
Including 8-40 in 2022, the MUAC Chargers have won 67 games since 2013.
It wasn’t too many years ago that West Covina (Calif.) High School graduate Cabana worked in pest control more than a decade after going to Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., where he played football but neglected his studies.
“I ruined opportunities I had because I wouldn’t go to class,” says Cabana, who years later decided he wanted a change and went back to the same school, played baseball at age 30 and earned an associate in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Citrus in 2018.
That was followed by a General Studies bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s degree in Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He was a player then an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Carolina University in Winston-Salem, N.C. (the Bruins went to the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series in 2021 and 2022), from August 2019 until moving to Indiana for a chance to be a head coach and impact lives.
“I’ve fallen in love with this process,” says Cabana. “Making the sacrifices these last five years have been fun and rewarding.”
His coaching experience also includes head coach in the Puerto Rico Collegiate League, bench coach for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms and All-American Amateur Baseball Association’s Winston-Salem-based Carolina Disco Turkeys.
In September 2021, Cabana founded Pursuit 4 Purpose to help athletes with their struggles of trying to become their best and has released 33 P4P podcast episodes to date related to personal development.
“It’s a character-developing, goal-setting organization intended to take the principles, values and life lessons we learn from sports and take them and apply them to other areas of our lives,” says Cabana. “I want to encourage and implore students to be more than athletes so when your sport fails you and it will you’ll have something more to stand on.”
Renowned physical and mental skills trainer Alan Jaeger has been a frequent guest. His first guest was Jeremy Sheetinger, former assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and College Division Liaison for the American Amateur Baseball Coaches Association who is now head coach at Georgia Gwinett College (the Grizzlies won the NAIA World Series in 2021).
Making himself a sponge, Cabana is soaking up the information while sharing it with others.
“I’m just doing my part to help athletes through the process,” says Cabana.
Kirk, wife Katie and sons Kooper (6) and Karson (infant) have settled near MUAC in Plymouth, Ind., while he goes about building his first Chargers team with about 25 players and the help of assistants Chuck Bowen, Josh Pitts and Matt Pitney. Bowen played and has coached at Ancilla. Pitts was on the Knox (Ind,) High School staff. The 2023 season is slated to open Feb. 11 against Southeastern Illinois College.
“We’re ready to attack the spring,” says Cabana.
That will be done while emphasizing team.
It’s the model of Mudita promoted by University of Alabama head softball coach Patrick Murphy.
“It’s vicarious joy through others’ success,” says Cabana. “What I’m trying to do for my guys is know that somebody else’s success does not mean less success for you.
“You have to be willing to move the team forward … There are so many roles on the team … You have to successful where you’re at.”
Cabana notes that during a 55-game season there will be chances for players to prove themselves.
“It’s a lot more than a baseball team,” says Cabana. “It’s a group of people learning to be their best.”