PEA RIDGE -- Head Blackhawk baseball coach Matt Easterling is a second generation Pea Ridge High School graduate who came back to Pea Ridge as assistant coach under legendary baseball coach John E. King.
"My bad day at work is still a pretty good day," Easterling said. "I'm on the field with kids I love and representing the school that I love most of all. I'm living the dream."
Easterling and his wife, Gina, have two children, Allie, 13, and Andrew, 10.
"My son loves baseball. When I go home at night and we don't have a game, and I'm exhausted and he says he wants to go outside and play catch, it doesn't matter how tired or if it's getting dark I go," he said. "I take advantage of that every opportunity."
Easterling credits his parents and grandparents for instilling love, passsion, pride for Pea Ridge and said he was elated when he had the opportunity to return.
"I came here at the drop of a hat -- no questions asked," Easterling said. "Everybody in this town that's been here ... they know me... they know how imperfect I was in high school.
"I had a lot of people saying 'don't go' and 'you don't want to replace Coach King,'" he said. "You never want to replace a legend. Those things were weighing in the back of my mind but, there's no way I would pass up the chance for me to go to the place I love more than any place on this planet and coach alongside my mentor."
"You learn not just how to enjoy success and celebrate success as a whole, but greater than that, how to deal with loss and disappointment... how to adapt and overcome," he said. "The game of baseball is unlike any other game. It's a mental game; you can not be mentally weak and play the game of baseball and expect to be successful -- repetition, repetition, repetition all the way through. That's life."
"These kids, whenever they leave the Pea Ridge program, I want them to be proud of who they are, proud of what they were able to accomplish, a pride in their community, a great pride in their school like I was brought to have when I was here... and in that, whenever they go out to be the doctors, lawyers, farmers, military, when things don't go their way, when life deals them tough breaks, heart outs, disappointments, job losses -- I want them to be able to draw back on the game of baseball and be mentally tough enough to handle it, to deal with failure in a way that makes them better, to adapt and overcome and be successful."
"I am every bit as much competitive today as I was in 2002 when I first started coaching, even '01 when student coaching in college. I'm still every bit as much passionate, and competitive and fiery as I was, but on the baseball field, it's different.
"I'm a lot calmer now than I was back in '05," he said.
"The kids who come through our program and are being successful in life are the ones who are not afraid to work," he said. "I look back on those kids, whether gifted or not, the ones who are not afraid to work... they're succeeding with families and job."
"Being successful is about knowledge. If you don't know how to work with a team, how to deal with failure ... If you can't do that, I don't care how intelligent you are, you better win the lottery because life is going to be touch and demand work," Easterling said.