There may never be an official definition, in the context of baseball, of what constitutes a 'Centralia guy' — but Rex Ashmore must come pretty close to fitting the bill.
Ashmore, a 1985 Tiger grad, played for Centralia College, was an assistant coach on the 1993 state champion Tiger baseball team, teaches at Centralia's Washington Elementary School and has coached baseball at Adna for the last 15 years.
And after the Centralia School District Board of Directors' decision Wednesday night, he'll be back in the home dugout at Ed Wheeler Field when spring rolls around.
"It's somewhat bittersweet, obviously. I spent 15 years out in Adna, and that was a very enjoyable 15 years," Ashmore said. "I have nothing at all bad to say about the place. It was a great experience, but at the same time it is very exciting to go back to my alma mater and coach."
Three candidates, out of well over a dozen applicants, were interviewed for the position.
"I think he brings to the position a great amount of experience," Centralia athletic director Josh Lowe said. "You set aside the baseball knowledge and look at the intangibles, and Rex is the complete package as a head coach. We're fortunate to have someone like Rex interested in the position."
Ashmore just completed his 15th season at Adna, during which he was voted the Central 2B League Coach of the Year and led the Pirates to the State 2B playoffs. He took Adna to state five times, including a third-place finish in 2007 and second-place finish in 2008. He was an assistant coach to Randy Elam and Marc Roberts at Centralia before taking the Adna job, and in the dugout when the Tigers won the state championship in 1993.
He played two seasons for Centralia College after high school, hitting over .400 both years and posting a .997 fielding percentage at second base. He was a second-team All-NWAACC pick as a sophomore and first-team All-NWAACC selection as a sophomore.
Now, he'll be back in black and orange.
"It's rekindled a lot of the fire for coaching," he said. "Again, it'll be different, in the aspect of having a lot more kids. At times in Adna we were fielding a team with 10 guys. Nobody had to complain about playing time, but you didn't have many options as a coach."
Ashmore said it would be tough to leave the group of incoming seniors at Adna — which includes Cooper Zurfluh, the son of his longtime assistant coach and friend Bryan Zurfluh.
"I'm excited about it, but at the same time, I would have liked to see that group through their senior year," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and looking forward to getting started."
Lowe and Ashmore will meet next week and discuss filling the two assistant baseball coach positions, which opened on May 29 and are posted on the district's website. With the start of baseball season still the better part of a year away, however, Lowe pointed out that there's no rush to find assistants.
"Zurf and I were talking, and we're not really even going to know what to do," Ashmore said. "We've only known one thing for the past 15 years, and that's having each other in the dugout."
He also thanked his coaching staff — Zurfluh and former players Kyle Ratkie and Caleb Sells — for their help over the years.
"It's always been like we don't have a head coach, we have coaches," he said. "You're only as good as they are, and that was just as important as myself."
Notes: Ashmore takes over for Jon Rooklidge, who was hired before the 2002 season. Rooklidge, this year's Evergreen 2A Conference Coach of the Year, led the Tigers to the state playoffs six times in 11 seasons before resigning at the end of the 2012 season. … Centralia went 10-8 in league play in 2012, and was an out away from a trip to the State 2A playoffs in a loss to Aberdeen in the third/fourth place game of the District IV tournament. … Rex is one of three Ashmore brothers currently coaching a local varsity sports. Doug Ashmore coaches girls basketball at Onalaska, and Scott Ashmore coaches girls basketball at Winlock. A fourth brother, Kim Ashmore, is one of the Centralia School District's board members.