MASON, W.Va. — His team isn’t at the state tournament for the first time in three postseasons, but Wahama skipper Tom Cullen is still coming home with some pretty impressive hardware this weekend during the 2017 WVSSAC baseball championships being held at Appalachian Power Park.
Cullen was presented with two separate honors on behalf of the National Federation of State High School Associations on Thursday as both the West Virginia baseball coach of the year and Mideast Sectional baseball coach of the year from the 2016 campaign.
Cullen — who just completed his 13th season as head coach of the White Falcons — received his dual accolades during the Class A semifinals on Thursday, but the venerable mentor spoke beforehand about his feelings in being recognized with either of these prestigious awards … more-or-less both.
“Honestly, receiving an individual award is a little hard for me because we do so much as a staff to get kids to accomplish things as a team in the game of baseball. A lot of people besides myself have had a lot to do with what we’ve been able to accomplish during my time here, especially the last few years,” Cullen said. “I am honored and I do think it’s a really neat thing to receive each of them, but these awards are really about all of the great people within the Wahama community that have been part of this baseball program over the years. To me, it speaks more about how far this program has come by working together and doing it the right way.”
Cullen’s White Falcons won the Class A baseball titles in both 2015 and 2016, bridging a gap of almost two decades since the program’s last state championships in 1996 and 1998. Cullen, coincidentally, was an assistant coach on both of those WHS squads as well.
The state award bestowed upon Cullen by the NFHS honored him as the top baseball coach in the Mountain State in 2016, which culminated with Wahama’s first-ever repeat championship in any sport. WHS was also one of three repeat champions at the WVSSAC baseball tournament last spring.
The Mideast Sectional award, which is a bit more notable, honored Cullen as the top baseball skipper in this region of the United States. The Mideast Section includes the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia — as well as the District of Columbia.
Wahama athletic director Ron Bradley — who received dual letters of notification from the NFHS in early January — noted how much of a thrill it was for him to inform Cullen of the news … both personally and professionally.
“He’s a very deserving individual for these honors after his years of work at Wahama. He was an assistant coach when I played and it was a thrill to work with him as an assistant the last few seasons. He’s always done things the right way and he always gets the best out of his people,” Bradley said. “He’s a good coach, but he’s an even better person because he’s touched a lot of lives during his time here at Wahama. We’re very proud of him and there is nobody more deserving of these accolades than Tom Cullen.”
Cullen — who also served as the offensive coordinator on the White Falcons’ 2012 Class A championship football team — has been part of plenty of historic moments at Wahama over his almost four decades worth of coaching, which includes spans of leaving the Little Kanawha Conference and joining the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division.
Through it all, however, Cullen still acknowledges how blessed he feels to have enough community and professional support to be able do his job in a successful manner.
He also notes that he’s pretty lucky to have that kind of support at home.
“I’ve been fortunate to have quality people around as assistant coaches and good support from both the school and the community, and that has really made a difference in how far we’ve been able to get,” Cullen said. “As much as I need to thank all of them for this, I really need to take the time to thank my wife Laura and my family for allowing me to do this all of these years. They, too, have made a lot of sacrifices along the way.”
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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