Howell new Mica Mountain baseball coach, takes over for state-championship coach Folsom

Former Sabino state-champion baseball coach Shane Folsom, who started coaching at Mica Mountain in 2021-22, has parted with the school and longtime baseball coach and scout Kyle Howell will take over.

Folsom coached Sabino to 3A state titles in 2019 and 2021. He also coached at Catalina for six seasons before moving to the Sabercat program in the 2018-19 school year.

He was 48-32 in his three seasons leading the Mica Mountain program and is 169-132 overall in 12 seasons as a head coach. The Thunderbolts qualified for the 4A state playoffs in 2022 and this season.

Howell was also a state-championship coach at Sabino, leading the softball team to the 3A state title in 2021. He also served as Sabino’s athletic director for two years before moving to Mica Mountain before the 2021-22 school year to become the golf coach and health teacher.

Howell has also served as an assistant to Mica Mountain’s vice principal of interscholastics Jay Campos and athletic director Whitney Holland.

“It’s an honor to be the next head coach at Mica Mountain,” Howell mentioned to AllSportsTucson.com. “Shane has done a great job with our program. He and I have had so many conversations from our time at Sabino to our last three years together at Mica Mountain.

“Our program is in a better place than it was three years ago, and I can only hope to continue to push us moving forward.”

Kyle Howell (far right) when he coached Sabino softball to the 2021 state championship (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Howell, 36, has an extensive coaching background at various levels over the last 11 years, from major-league baseball to junior college baseball to coaching at Sabino.

He is an associate scout for the Detroit Tigers as well.

In the last three years, he has worked for USA Baseball on its Scouting Taskforce for events in Phoenix and in Cary, N.C.

He has taken on more than 10 meaningful job titles In a span of only 14 years since earning his sports administration and management degree with a minor in kinesiology from Southwest Baptist in 2010.

He is accustomed to traveling, born in Hawaii and first playing collegiately for Division I baseball program Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y., before using his last three years of eligibility at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo.

Only six months after concluding his baseball career at Southwest Baptist, Howell became a minor-league strength and conditioning coach with the Washington Nationals, an immediate sign he could take on major roles.

“I had some conversations with scouts about how to get into the game, and Washington told me that after I finish my kinesiology degree that I should get my strength and conditioning stuff and come work for them,” he said. “I ended up going and got a job in spring training. When I got there, I was the only strength guy with a baseball background.”

That led to him throwing batting practice during the Nationals’ big-league spring training camp and coaching first base at Class A Hagerstown (Md.) his first season.

“I got to sit in some of the meeting rooms and be around hitters, and at the end of the year, we had a conversation about me moving into a full-time coaching role,” Howell said. “I was not a player, so it wasn’t ever going to be anything where I can move up, I thought. I decided at that point, it’s best to get out of pro ball and go the college route.”

He moved to El Paso in October 2011 for an opportunity to be the director of baseball operations with the El Paso Border Youth Association, a new business that selected players and trained them in a 3,000-square foot indoor facility. The players competed in elite national events and all 14 high school seniors in his first year there received college baseball scholarships. Two were major-league draft picks.

Trading card of Kyle Howell when he was a coach of the Class A Hagerstown (Md.) Suns in 2011

That experience opened the opportunity to become El Paso Community College’s recruiting coordinator in 2012-13 and part of the 2013-14 school year. He recruited and coached two major-league draft picks and 13 of his players signed with NCAA Division I programs in his three semesters at the school.

It was in El Paso that he met his wife Kassie, an educator.

“Her folks and her entire family is from El Paso, so when looking at what we were going to do down the road, we looked at moving to either Arizona or Dallas,” Howell said.

He and his wife were starting a family when in 2014 he became the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at the College of Ozarks, an NAIA program in Point Lookout, Mo. After only one season in the Ozarks, he became the associate head coach at Hesston (Kan.) Junior College. A year later, he took over the head coaching role.

His networking with major-league scouts from his time with the Nationals landed him an area scouting position with the Boston Red Sox when he went to Hesston in the 2014-15 school year.

“As a junior college coach, we played (NCAA) Division I and II programs in the fall and then I was recruiting high school kids, so it was kind of the perfect thing for the Red Sox,” Howell said. “They would try to latch on to junior college coaches and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to see both ends of the spectrum.’”

Since moving to Tucson in May 2018, Howell has worked with the Detroit Tigers as an associate scout, keeping a watchful eye on some of the local talent when presented the opportunity.

His time at Hesston was highly successful, guiding that program to the 2016 NJCAA Region VI championship, earning region coach of the year honors. He coached 35 players to universities during his four years at Hesston, including 14 after the 2016 season. Seven of his players signed with Division 1 programs, the most in school history.

Kyle Howell during his successful run as the Hesston (Kan.) Junior College coach from 2014-18 (Hesston photo)

Howell became endeared by his Hesston players, who related well to him because of the lack of age disparity.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play baseball after high school but after being with this team I found my passion for the game again,” David Ryan, one of his players, told the Hesston College Horizon.

With such success at Hesston, and much respect from his players there — it was reported that a mass exodus might occur with his departure — what made Howell, 30 at the time, decide to leave coaching?

Kyle Rinehart, another of his players, said, “It’s a lot of money for me to come here and not play for Coach Howell. He was a huge factor for why I decided to come here.”

Howell and his wife decided to make a move in the best interest of their young family, which includes daughters Khloe (9 years old) and Kelsea (6) and son Kannon (4).

“We wanted to be close enough to family (in El Paso) so we could be around,” Howell said. “My wife and I always agreed that when our kids got older, that we’d find something where I was not on the road for 250 days a year.

“I had other opportunities to coach college baseball and benefit financially, but it came down to not wanting to be away from my family for a long time.”

St. Augustine Catholic High School, in its sixth year of existence at the time in 2018, posted an opening for its first athletic director position.

Sabino coach Kyle Howell holds a meeting in the circle with Riley Nielson and the Sabercats during the 3A state title game against Payson on Monday (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com

Howell noticed the opening online while at Hesston and applied. He also submitted an application to UCLA for an assistant athletic director position just in case the Bruins’ administration might bite.

“St. Augustine was the only one that called,” Howell said. “They asked for an interview. We were visiting my wife’s family at El Paso at the time, so my wife and I drove to Tucson for the first time.

“They told me they wanted to model what Salpointe does on a smaller scale. They didn’t want to change who they were academically or the size of their program. They wanted to attract more athletic-minded students.”

Howell and his family moved to Tucson shortly thereafter and he started to make an immediate impact with St. Augustine, negotiating a deal with Nike to outfit the athletic teams and trying to attract coaches with college athletic backgrounds.

After more than a year at St. Augustine, which has an enrollment of less than 200, Howell said he became enticed with the athletic director opening at Sabino after Jay Campos was hired at Mica Mountain High School to be the assistant principal of interscholastics at that brand new school.

“I was like, ‘Okay, what’s next? I’ve enjoyed this time at St. Augustine. It’s been fun. But is there something that will mimic the college experience for me?’” Howell said.

Colleagues of his with TUSD and administrators in Vail, because of his wife’s connections teaching there, all suggested going after the Sabino position.

Kyle Howell and wife Kassie with daughters Khloe and Kelsea (Howell photo)

He was hired at Sabino in late January 2020 after first consulting with St. Augustine president Dave Keller.

“He said, ‘Go for it. It speaks volumes for what we’ve done here,’” Howell said.

Becoming Sabino’s athletic director was Howell’s ninth different job title in the last 11 years.

The 10th occupation: becoming the Sabercats’ head softball coach in 2020-21.

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