Ryan brings back Mike Lake as baseball coach

Lake is heading home to coach baseball at Archbishop Ryan, the place he graduated from and coached from 1983 until 2001.

After coaching the La Salle University baseball team since 2002, Mike Lake is back at Archbishop Ryan. PHOTO: FRANK MCARDLE

Mike Lake wasn’t really looking to get back in baseball.

But then he got an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or more accurately, he got a request he couldn’t turn down.

Lake is heading home to coach baseball at Archbishop Ryan High School, a place he graduated from and a place he coached from 1983 until 2001. The last 12, he was the head coach.

“First I saw they had an opening and then I got a phone call from (athletic director George Todt) and when he calls, you answer,” said Lake, a 1977 graduate. “Then I spoke to the president, Mike Barnett, who does a great job there. I couldn’t be happier about going back.”

Lake, who replaces Nick Chichilitti, isn’t just returning to the school. He’s returning to baseball.

When he left Ryan in 2001, Lake went on to coach La Salle University. He stayed there until 2017, including the final 10 years as the Explorers’ head coach.

“Last year was very different, I missed it,” Lake said. “I didn’t need to get back into coaching, but I wanted to go back, especially because it was Ryan. I like everything about the school. It’s my home.”

That’s a fairly common answer among Ryan coaches.

Football coach Frank McArdle, basketball coach Joe Zeglinski, soccer coach Ryan Haney and girls soccer coach Jon Geist were all standout athletes at the school. It’s not a coincidence that school has a lot of former Raiders patrolling the hallways.

“That all starts with George Todt,” Lake said. ”He’s been there the whole time. You know he’s been asked to go a lot of places because he was such a good coach and such a good athletic director. He’s organized, he’s dedicated and hard working, so he’s had offers, but he loves being at Ryan.

“It’s the sense of family you get there. Everybody who is there wants to be there. They’re there because they want to be there. And the sports programs are doing great. I hope we can keep baseball going strong, too.”

That shouldn’t be a problem.

The Raiders struggled last year, winning just one Catholic League game. The year before, they advanced to the Catholic League semifinals, so they’re not that far removed from success.

And their new coach knows how to win.

Before spending time coaching Division I baseball, he enjoyed success at Ryan, where he led the Raiders to the Catholic League championship in 1998. It was a Cinderella run for the Raiders who got into the playoffs of the final day of the regular season.

“Ryan baseball has always been good, it was good long before me,” Lake said. “They were really good before me with very good coaches and they’ve been good since. Ryan has always had good athletic programs.”

The past spring was the first one in a long time that Lake wasn’t guiding a team, but he remained active in the sport, working as an instructor at Sluggersville, a baseball training facility on Blue Grass Road.

There, Lake was able to do what he loves to do.

“I love teaching the game and teaching fundamentals,” Lake said. “At La Salle, I loved coaching there, but it was different. You’re not teaching Division I players fundamentals. They know them. You’re trying to make them better.

“That’s why I love coaching high school, and it’s the same at Sluggersville. You’re getting kids, 14, 15, 16 years old. I really like teaching. That’s a great aspect of coaching, when you can help them get better. I really enjoyed doing that.”

Coaching the college game will certainly help him, though.

Lake spent a lot of time matching wits with great coaches during his time at La Salle.

He also watched great ballplayers every day and couldn’t help but learn some tips while coaching at that level.

“College baseball is a lot like high school, it’s just faster and the players are bigger and stronger,” Lake said. “You can’t help but become a better coach when coaching college. Really, every game you coach at any level, you learn something and become a better coach.”

While Lake had great support from the Ryan community, he also has it at home.

His wife, Arleen, his daughters Ashley and Kristyn and son Michael are all in favor of their dad’s new venture. All his children are grown, but Ashley and Kristyn were softball players at North Penn before graduating and Michael played football at the Lansdale-based school.

“They all love sports,” Lake said. “If my wife didn’t want me doing this, I wouldn’t be doing it. My wife isn’t as much a sports fan as she is a fan of the kids playing. And all three of the kids were good athletes. They loved it.”

Almost as much as dad loves coaching.

And now he’s back where he belongs.

“Ryan is family,” Lake said. “I am so happy to be back. I love coaching and I love being at Ryan, so it’s great.”