By: Austin Herrington
For many Comet alumni, past athletes either continue to play the sport they love or they move into the next stage of their life. For Jonathan Folena, age 24, came back the very next year to be an assistant coach for the Mayville State Comets baseball team.
Folena finished off his year with the Comets as a senior at the end of the 2017-2018 year with a .330 batting average and two homeruns. His career at Mayville was not snubbed either. In the two years he played for the Comets, he posed a .357 batting average, drove in 87 total RBIs and had 5 homeruns.
Some will say the impact Folena had on the team was the partially the reason why the Comets were so successful. In his first year, the Comets won the conference tournament that gave them an automatic bid into the national playoffs (which ultimately led to defeat in the first round). And in his second year, the Comets won their regular season conference but got blindsided in the conference tournament.
But where did all this stem from? Folena started to play baseball at the age of 4 when his dad realized how athletic he was at such a young age. As the years passed, he started to play more, and he would eventually be 7 years old playing with the 9-year-old.
The affects of him playing with older kids meant he was always around them and being to advanced to play with kids at his own age. Folena stated, “I always had to act older and not let my emotions show.” But the acting older wasn’t even the hardest part for him.
Because Folena was younger than the kids he played baseball with put him at a disadvantage. “Physically I was always smaller than everyone,” said Folena, “so I always wanted to be the faster one or the quicker one just trying to get some type of advantage.”
As Folena went on through the years of playing baseball, he came to a point where he thought he could make it professionally. In high school, Folena received many letters from various Major League Baseball scouts pursuing their interest in him. Out of high school he had a scholarship to play for the Oregon State University Beavers.
But because of injuries, he had to hold back on a 4-year college for two years as he spent his freshman and sophomore year at Cabrillo Junior College in California. He then later got recruited to play at Mayville.
Growing up, Folena did not specifically think that he would end up coaching. “I always knew that my baseball IQ was very high compared to others,” Folena said. Once he knew that he was farther ahead than others, he knew coaching was a possibility.
The transition from playing baseball for Mayville to coaching the team a year later was smoother than expected. “I like the program, and if it wasn’t for the coaches for giving me a chance,” Folena said “I like the way they coach and the kind of people they are” he further explained.
The mindsets between coaching and playing are completely different to Folena. To him, coaching is more having to look at your options for what would work best in specific situations as appose to playing you only have to worry about what you are going to do and what your next move is going to be.
But the hardest thing about coaching doesn’t stem to coaching players, it comes from the guys he played with the year before. “I got to act a little more serious when I’m on the coaching side,” Folena said. The friendship between him and the old players doesn’t change but the respect factor comes into play because now he is their coach.
The benefits of coaching compared to playing are a lot better than you would think. Folena enjoys they type of food he gets on the road rather than what the players receive. “While playing we would receive just a pizza but now that I coach, I actually get to pick what goes on it,” Folena jokingly remarked.
Even though Folena is coaching this year, his apparent future does not involve coaching anytime soon. Folena has a Psychology degree with a Minor in Sociology and plans on becoming a police officer or any type of law enforcement. But once he is established on that stage of his life then coaching could be a possibility but nothing too time consuming.
Once he retires though, he would love to go back to coaching baseball at the college level. His reason in specific to why he wants to coach at the college level is because he is coaching men. “I don’t have to make anything easier for them, I just lay it on the table and they will take it as it is,” Folena said.
As Folena is entering his first season as one of the Comet baseball coaches, he also starting his other aspiration of being in law enforcement. He is currently trying to get into a probation and parole just to get his feet wet with law enforcement hoping to get a chance.
At the age of 24, Folena has a bright future ahead of him. In the 3 years he has been at Mayville he has made countless friends and memories and he can’t wait for where he will end up next. I guess you could say Folena just bleeds Comet blue.