West Valley Preps
Five years after he succeeded Klent Corley as the head baseball coach at Valley Vista, Mark Flatten is the newest assistant on Corley’s staff at small school powerhouse Joy Christian.
Flatten spent the spring leading Buckeye Verrado to new heights, as the Vipers topped the 5A ranking for most of the 2017 season. But as discussions with the Pittsburgh Pirates about a scouting role became more serious, Flatten said he realized the extra time commitment associated with being a high school head coach was a problem.
He accepted the job with the Pirates, which peaks in the summer with scouting the Arizona Rookie League and will include other special assignments in the state during the rest of the year. Talks with Corley about joining his staff were now serious.
“We were baseball coaches talking baseball for a couple years,” Corley said. “This almost started as a joke, ‘let’s do this together.’ But by the middle of (the 2017 season) we realized it could happen.”
Flatten said he met with athletic director Jason Mitchell and other school leaders. He left the school’s Glendale campus believing he couple play a role that was bigger than baseball, interwoven with the school mission of developing young people on their way to becoming adults.
This school year, Flatten will teach strength and conditioning at Joy, and his kids will attend the K-12 private school. He said he is happy to help Corley.
“I think Klent and I will complement each other quite a bit. We’re trying to do things without egos, which fits into the mission of the school,” Flatten said. “I felt different when I walked through the door (after meeting school officials). The people there are amazing.”
Joy Christian baseball has two hours most school days — devoted to weight training and infield work — to get together before practice. With Flatten working on campus in addition to fellow assistant and former college coach Josh Milner, the Eagles will have rare opportunities for a high school program.
Former assistant John Hemsley moved over to Joy Christian with Corley but remained at his Dysart High School teaching job. After the 2017 season, Copper Canyon High School in southern Glendale hired Hemsley as its new head coach.
That extra on-campus coach with head coaching experience will give Corley the chance to focus more on his are of expertise, working with pitchers. Flatten will concentrate on infield drills.
“Relationships, development and teaching are his strengths,” Corley said.
Corley and Flatten spoke briefly as the Valley Vista program transitioned from one to the other in the summer of 2012. But they did not converse regularly until years later, Corley said.
In recent years, baseball talk became a legitimate friendship.
“We realized we have a lot in common and similar interest, really,” Flattens aid.
Flatten led the Monsoon for three years, leving for Verrado after furnishing the best season in Valley Vista history in 2015 — a 26-9 record and a spot in the final eight of the Division I (big school) playoffs.
Both coaches guided their respective schools to the best year in program history in 2017, and Verrado and Joy Christian were odds-on favorites in their divisions for most of the spring. Then both teams met an unexpected end thanks to the unpredictability of a single-game postseason setup.
Verrado enter the 5A playoffs as the No. 4 seed, but was shocked by No. 13 seed and eventual state champion Kellis. Joy Christian entered the 2A bracket with one loss, then fell victim to a massive semifinal upset by No. 5 seed Wilcox.
Flatten said it was difficult to leave Verrado after two years, but he is happy to hand over the program in better shape than it was two years ago.
The opportunity to be a MLB scout while staying close to home and family was too good to pass up. And he thanked the Pirates for being flexible enough to allow him to teach and coach young men, even if he will spend less hours doing so.
“There were times this spring when I though I wanted (to stay at Verrado) because we were having so much fun,” Flatten said. “Unfortunately, sometimes the right time to move on comes in the middle of things going well.”