After two stints and 21 seasons with Scott Birchler at the helm, Osceola High School will be looking for a new head baseball coach. Birchler, the all-times win leader in the school’s history, announced his retirement at the team’s annual baseball banquet on Wednesday night.

Birchler steps down after another successful campaign, where the Kowboys – despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the state – went 16-10, won a district championship, won a regional quarterfinal and then took eventual regional champion Park Vista to the limit in losing a 3-1 decision.

“No one thing led up to this decision,” Birchler said. “It’s always tough to figure out when it’s the right time to leave.  I started to think about this last year when my son Blake was a senior and after this season, it just felt like the right time.  Being the head baseball coach at a school like Osceola is a time-consuming job and honestly there is more to my life than just baseball.  Trying to be a good husband, a good father and a good grandfather is extremely important to me and by stepping down it will give me more time to focus on those things.”

That game marked the end of a remarkable coaching career, where Birchler came to the school in 1993 as a teaching intern and assistant baseball coach but was thrust into the role of interim head coach with the sudden departure of Rob Beach.

He would remain head coach until 2000, when he resigned after winning the first of his eight district championships to become an assistant coach at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando.  “My wife was pregnant and I felt I was needed a lot more around the house than on a baseball field,” Birchler said.  “Dr. Phillips didn’t have lights at the time, they played afternoon games and being an assistant is a lot less time consuming that being a head coach.  I just felt it was the right thing to do.”

Seven years later when Liberty High School opened, Birchler became the school’s first head baseball coach.  After guiding the Chargers to its first winning season just three years later, Birchler returned to Osceola as head coach when Nick James departed.

That started a remarkable sting of success for the Kowboys’ program.  Over the next 13 seasons, Osceola would not lose more than 12 games in any season.  In winning 242 games over that span, Osceola would win district championships in 2012-13-14-15-18-19-20-23 and would never post a losing record.

Although his 2014 team lost in the district championship to Lake Nona, his team earned an at-large bid to the state tournament.   They would beat Bartow, Haines City and Sickles in succession to win a regional championship.  His team would go on to battle East Lake, where they lost a 1-0 decision in 13 innings in a state semifinal game.  

“There have been a lot of memorable wins in my career but some of the losses also hold a special place in my memory,” Birchler recalled about that team and that game.  “We won a regional championship and that was special but that 13-inning loss to East Lake was special too.  Perhaps the greatest game I have ever been involved in.”

He also said on-field battles with Gateway stand out in his memory.  “Back when their program was really good, we had some great games with them,” the veteran coach remembers.  “It just seems that every game we played with them was a one-run affair that came down to the last at-bat.  They were so much fun to be involved in.”

Numerous players under Birchler went on to play college and professional baseball, including Edwin Rios – who won a World Series ring with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

Still Birchler says it is the family atmosphere of Kowboys baseball that means a lot more than his eight district titles, numerous Coach of the Year awards and 367 career wins. “My sons Brett and Blake grew up as field rats around Osceola baseball and then I had the privilege to coach them both.  Also, I’ve always viewed my players as my adoptive sons and so many of those guys would come back to be around the program.  When I announced my intentions last night, I saw Josean Sanchez – one of our former players – in the audience and he was crying and that caused me to well up a little.  I’ve had former players come back and be assistant coaches for me.  Things like that mean so much more to me than the wins and losses ever would.”

 Athletic Director Rick Tribit said he said he wasn’t taken totally surprised by the announcement but said Birchler would be a tough coach to replace. “This move is the right thing for Scott but leaves us with a huge void to fill,” Osceola Athletics Director Rick Tribit said.  “Scott is a great coach but beyond that he is a much better person.  He was on the same wave length with our philosophy of education first and athletics second and will be greatly missed.”  Tribit was the search for his replacement would start immediately.  “We’re already posted the job and will be beating the bushes to find the right person to replace Scott,” Tribit said.  “It obviously will not be easy.  It’s imperative we select the right person to continue the legacy that Coach Birchler has built here.”