Kaleb Manuel told his wife that if he were ever to take a head coaching job on the high school level, it would be at Pearl River.
Things lined up for the former Southeastern Louisiana volunteer coach quicker than he thought they would.
Manuel was named the Pearl River coach on Wednesday.
After prepping at Mamou High School, Manuel spent two years pitching at perennial power LSU-Eunice, where he served as team captain his sophomore season. The right-hander capped his freshman season by closing out the national championship game for the Bengals at the NJCAA Division II World Series.
He then moved onto Southeastern Louisiana, where he compiled a 5-7 record with a 3.94 ERA. He struck out 81 batters in 96 innings, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Manuel served as a volunteer assistant coach for Matt Riser at Southeastern Louisiana the past two seasons.
“I’m extremely excited to get going,” Manuel said. “This community means a lot to me. My wife is from here, and I have met a lot of great people from here. It’s an awesome town, and I love this place.”
Manuel replaces Joe Harris, who led the Rebels to the Class 4A state playoffs last season.
Manuel hopes to bring stability to Pearl River, as he will be its third head coach in as many years.
“There is no doubt I’m in this for the long haul,” he said. “I love it here. Pearl River reminds me a lot of where I’m from. This city is full of a lot of blue-collar kids with a lot of grit.
"They are never out of the game. They are always going to compete. From Day 1, everyone has bought in. When you have kids that are competitive, you are going to have an excellent chance to win baseball games."
Coaching and recruiting on the collegiate level for the past two seasons may help speed up the process of gaining his players' trust at Pearl River, Manuel said.
“Of course, I know what the college coaches think like and the different things that they are looking for,” he said. “If a kid’s dream is to play college baseball and they are talented enough to do it, I’m going to do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Learning from Riser’s speed-first philosophy during his time in Hammond, Manuel said his goal is to implement a similar style in Pearl River.
“I compare my style to a race car engine,” he said. “I want to keep that needle in the red the whole time. I want to redline the engine, maximum output at all times. Any little opportunity that presents itself, I want to take it. I want to keep our opponents on their heels as much as possible.”