‘ONCE A CARDINAL, ALWAYS A CARDINAL’: Doorey leaves Plattsburgh State baseball helm, takes job at Florida Southern

Plattsburgh State baseball coach Kris Doorey (center) walks off the mound after a visit with pitcher Matt Triola (left) and catcher Jacob Hutton (right) during a SUNYAC baseball game this past season at Chip Cummings Field. (Joey LaFranca/Staff Photo)

PLATTSBURGH — Kris Doorey is headed to Florida.

After 20 years at the helm of the Plattsburgh State baseball program, Doorey decided to close one chapter of his life and start another.

That next chapter will be at Florida Southern University where he will serve as the college’s assistant athletic director.

He made the decision so he could reunite with his family.

At the start of 2021, Doorey’s wife, Michelle, and son, Brady, moved to Florida to allow for Brady, who was a junior at Saranac, to play baseball since the COVID-19 pandemic created uncertainty as to whether or not there would be a baseball season in the North Country.

Meanwhile, Doorey and his daughter, Ava, stayed home as Doorey coached Plattsburgh State in a COVID-shortened baseball season and Ava finished up her school year at Saranac as an eighth-grader.

“I never thought that I would say the words, 'I am leaving Plattsburgh State,'” Doorey said. “This spring was very difficult. We wanted to do what was best for our family. We wanted to give Brady the opportunity to do whatever he wants to do in terms of playing baseball.”

Doorey’s son attended Haines City High School in Florida, where he played baseball and concluded his junior year.

That experience caused some conversations for the Doorey family that led to the ultimate decision to move.

“We knew if Brady really liked it, moving would be something we would have to think about,” Doorey said. “We started looking for things in Florida. We talked about it and made the decision that we all wanted to move back to Florida. The holdup for me was a job. I wanted to have a job that was going to help me get out of bed in the morning and give me some energy.”

THE NEW JOB

Doorey applied for the Florida Southern opportunity on June 8, and things quickly developed from there.

After a long day of interviewing a few weeks later, he was offered the new opportunity and accepted the role.

“The administration at Florida Southern has a lot of energy and passion about athletics,” Doorey said. “They have goals, and they are steep goals. It's exciting to be a part of something like that. It's just a different type of atmosphere.”

Doorey said he is excited to have the new opportunity and also utilize his Master's in Athletic Administration he earned in 2014.

Florida Southern, located in Lakeland, Florida, is roughly a 25-mile commute from Haines City High School, which Doorey jokingly said would be a much better commute than flying down from Plattsburgh to watch his son play baseball.

“It's nothing I can't handle for a commute, especially since I will not be dealing with snow,” Doorey said with a laugh.

A BIG VOID

Doorey’s family decision has left the Plattsburgh State athletic administration with bittersweet emotions.

As happy as many are to know Doorey will now be with his family, they will miss his contributions to Plattsburgh State.

In addition to serving as the Cardinals’ baseball coach, Doorey also played a vital role in the college’s athletic marketing and advertising efforts as well as being an intricate part of the Cardinal Athletics Hall of Fame Committee.

“When Kris leaves, and I would hate to say just a baseball coach, we have to replace the baseball coach, but we also have to replace a lot of the intangibles that he was responsible for,” Plattsburgh State Director of Athletics and Recreation Mike Howard said. “We will certainly miss his voice, and I will personally miss him because he is a veteran coach I have leaned on quite a bit in different circumstances.”

Since taking on his current role at Plattsburgh State five years ago, Howard acknowledged Doorey’s importance.

Whether it was when Doorey reached out to him with open arms when he arrived to Plattsburgh State or any interaction between the two after that point, Howard said there was never a time where Doorey let him down.

“I honestly can't think of an instance when I asked him to help me with something and was told by him that he could not do it,” Howard said. “When I have asked him to step in and fill a role, he was always able to find a way.”

Doorey’s ability to connect with many at Plattsburgh State will be missed just as much, if not more, than what he brought as a coach.

“On a professional level, he is a pro as a coach but also as an administrator, a teacher and a mentor to the student-athletes,” Plattsburgh State Director of Sports Medicine Jason Patcher said. “How he was able to maintain this job for so many years and maintain relationships with his athletes goes back to how detail oriented he is and knowledgeable about everything.”

Patcher and Doorey started their tenures at Plattsburgh State the same week in 2001. From there, a friendship between the two grew that will last for life.

“His office was literally 20 feet from my office,” Patcher said. “When I had a little downtime and had no athletes I was doing rehab with, I usually had a tendency to end up in his office on the couch and have a little chat about whatever. That was a daily occurrence. You could not find me in my office. You could find me in his.”

At this time, Howard said Doorey’s replacement could come from within the college or be an outside hire.

“The goal is to have a coach by the time the fall semester begins,” Howard said.

A STRONG LEGACY

The Plattsburgh State baseball program came back to life in 2001 after having been gone since 1976.

Doorey has been the only head coach of the program since it returned and ended up recording more than 300 wins in his career.

“It's difficult to leave Plattsburgh State, but I am leaving with my head held high, knowing I gave everything I had to Plattsburgh State, and Plattsburgh State was good to me,” Doorey said. “There's no animosity on either side of this. It's just time for a change, and it's family first.”

Doorey turned down coaching opportunities at The College of Saint Rose in 2011 and Saint Michael’s College two years ago, citing how neither job truly interested him enough to go away from Plattsburgh.

What it took for him to leave was his family.

“The only thing that could have ever made me leave Plattsburgh was if it was for my family,” Doorey said. “It will be weird to be a fan of Plattsburgh State now, but the memories I have from my time here will never be lost.

“Everyone always has their little catch phrase, and our phrase at Plattsburgh State is, 'Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal.' I said that to guys who played for a year or all four years and coaches who have come and gone.”

BUILDING FROM SCRATCH

While nothing was easy when baseball returned to Plattsburgh State, Doorey embraced every challenge he faced and made a lasting impact on his players.

The journey started with tryouts at Lefty Wilson Field in the fall of 2001 when Doorey saw his first crop of potential talent.

There were more than 60 players who attended the first tryout, and Doorey said he told Jim Shutts, his assistant coach at the time, that they would first just watch and see who could play catch.

“I laughed and told Jim, ‘Hey, we will see who can throw and catch. If they can’t do that, we will tap them on the shoulder and tell them to go home.’”

One of those players who went through the tryouts and made the first team Doorey coached was Saranac alumnus Joe Light.

“There were guys there at those tryouts with no gloves and no cleats,” Light said. “I could only imagine what Kris was thinking.”

Light recalled a great memory he had of how he was driving to the tryouts that fall day and saw someone walking on the sidewalk with baseball gear.

He pulled over and asked the person if he was going to the tryouts, and he said yes.

He had the guy hop into his car and gave him a lift to the field.

Little did Light know at the time that he would be picking up Matty Kahan, who would end up being his teammate and great friend for all four years at Plattsburgh.

“I went to that tryout because I saw a flier in my dorm,” Kahan said. “I am so glad I went because those four years playing baseball at Plattsburgh were some of the best of my life, and Kris Doorey was the best coach I ever had. I love the guy.”

For Kahan, it wasn’t just baseball that made him think that way about Doorey.

Kahan flunked out of college after his first semester, but Doorey helped provide a second chance.

Doorey called Kahan into his office and asked if he really wanted to play baseball or not, and Kahan replied that he did.

“He told me to set my priorities right and get my head in the books,” Kahan said. “I took that to heart. It was a big thing for him to say. It showed me that someone cared about me way away from home on Long Island. It made me focus, and they ended up taking me back on probation.”

That conversation reignited Kahan’s life trajectory, and for that, he has nothing but respect for Doorey.

“I wanted to break his legs so he could not leave when I heard he was going to Florida, but he is going to do wonderful down there," Kahan said. "He’s going to help more kids just like he did for me.”

STRONG IMPRESIONS

Kahan was one of the many student-athletes Doorey assisted.

His leadership on and off the field is what players tend to remember the most.

“He instilled the work ethic to play hard and give everything we had,” Light said. “Those first years were pretty rough, but we eventually found our way.

“It was amazing how much things grew. I never thought we would have the success we had as the program developed. He just kept pushing us to do our best, and it was one of my favorite times in my adult life playing baseball under Kris Doorey.”

From past to present, Doorey’s positive interactions with players always existed.

Take Stephen Bryant, for example.

Bryant just wrapped up his career with the Cardinals this spring with impressive accolades, including the highest single-season on-base percentage in program history at .600. He also had the second-highest single-season batting average in program history at .469.

His successful career started out on a bumpy path during a Florida trip, as Bryant struggled in his first handful of collegiate games, but Doorey sent him a text reassuring him that everything would be OK and success would come.

“Him sending me that text really instilled confidence in me and showed that he really believed in me when I didn’t,” Bryant said. “It’s definitely something that has always stuck with me throughout my career and allowed me to play more freely and with confidence to perform at a high level in a good conference.

“I can definitely credit him part of my success by just telling me he believes in my ability. It’s something that a lot of other coaches around the country wouldn’t tell a freshman. They would simply send them to the bench after poor performances. I can’t thank him enough for everything.”

NORTH COUNTRY ROOTS

In addition to his coaching role at Plattsburgh State, Doorey had his hands in plenty of other facets of North Country baseball, including being Director of Operations for the Clinton County Mariners as well as a top figurehead for the Champlain Valley Baseball League.

“I am a North Country kid at heart,” Doorey said. “All I have wanted to do is make the North Country baseball scene better than what it was when I started. I am pretty confident that I did my very best. I will not say that it’s better, but I believe the things I have had my hands in have been able to do some really good things.”

Even once he is established in Florida, Doorey said his North Country roots nor his love and support of Plattsburgh State baseball will go anywhere.

“This ride was unlike any other I have had,” Doorey said. “It’s time to let someone else take control of baseball at Plattsburgh State and see what they can do.

“I know I will always be a fan of the Cardinals.”

Email Joey LaFranca:

jlafranca@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @JoeyLaFranca

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