As a teacher who's coached a variety of sports from middle school girls' softball to high school football, Bradshaw Mountain High's new athletic director Mark Ernster can understand his coaches' perspective.
"It's an advantage to see eye-to-eye and know what they go through," he said.
Add in his experience at all levels of sports - right up to the pros - and that advantage deepens.
"I'm excited coming to work everyday," said Ernster, 35, who started at BMHS in June. "Everybody's been so welcoming."
He said already he's shared ideas from academics to fundraising with principal Kort Miner and assistant principals Jeremy Hendrix and Melissa Tannehill.
"We can take the best of all worlds, the new energy and styles," he said, adding, "It makes for a better place for everybody."
The Chicago Cubs drafted Arizona native Ernster during his senior year at Glendale's Ironwood High, where he was a three-sport athlete, earning All-State honors in football, soccer and baseball, and a 4.25 GPA National Honor Society scholar.
He opted to attend Arizona State University on an academic scholarship, and played in the 1998 College World Series. His 1999 single season batting average of .439 at ASU was second only to Paul Lo Duca (.446). While there he crossed paths with U of A pitcher Ben Diggins (Bradshaw Mountain Class of 1998), and again when both were members of the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Milwaukee drafted All-American Ernster after his third year with the Sun Devils. After four seasons of professional baseball he returned to ASU to earn a kinesiology degree. He since has a master's in educational leadership from NAU.
For the past 11 years he taught math at Peoria's Liberty High - and coached. In fact, he was the baseball program's head coach from its inception five years ago, leading the first senior class of Lions to a 4AII state championship in 2010.
Ernster and Kim, his wife of three years, now are enjoying life with 4-month-old son, Blake, in the area where he spent so many happy hours fishing, hunting, and exploring the mountains.
"I don't know why it took me 35 years to be up north. I knew I would love it here. It's been everything I hoped for," he said. "Now I have a chance to do what I love - being in school with the kids and exploring the unknown in the mountains and wildlife, enjoying what God's given us."