Baseball coach EJ Mapps leaves a lasting legacy at Pomona

Pomona baseball coach EJ Mapps gathers his team before his final game coaching the Panthers on Thursday at Bart Mapps Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

ARVADA — EJ Mapps coached his final game Thursday afternoon on the baseball field that bares his late father’s name — Bart Mapps Field.

After 32 years at Pomona High School — 28 years as the head baseball coach — Mapps filled out his final line-up card, hit his last pre-game infield and coached third base for the final time.

EJ Mapps fills out his final line-up card before the Panthers took on Mountain Range on Thursday at Bart Mapps Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“Four years ago I kind of had this in my mind with my son (Griffee Mapps) graduating that would be a good time to do it,” Mapps said of stepping down after this season. “I really wanted his last game to be my last game. I felt it was a good time to close this book and start a new chapter.”

And what a book was written over the three decades at Pomona. Mapps finished with 288 victories to go along with winning the Class 5A state title in 2003 after state runner-up trophies in 1998 and 2000.

“We just kept pushing and pushing and pushing,” Mapps said of the Panthers’ state runner-up runs in 1998 and 2000. “It was similar to what Jay Madden did in football here at Pomona. You have to get to the title game a couple of times and maybe lose before you figure how to push over and through to get the title.”

Pomona edged Regis Jesuit 2-1 in the winner-take-all championship game at All-City Field in Denver back in May 2003.

“We’ve had a million great teams. That 2003 team has to be the best ever,” Mapps said. “Just fantastic memories, great ball players and great people that I’m still friends with.”

While the wins and heated rivalries with the likes of Arvada and Arvada West back in the late-1990s and early-2000s were legendary, it was the family aspect that Mapps brought every day to Pomona.

EJ Mapps started his coaching career at Pomona as an assistant baseball coach in 1990. He took over the head coaching duties in 1994, racking up 288 wins and the Class 5A state title in 2003. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

In 2000 the baseball field was actually named after Bart Mapps, EJ’s father that had been there from Day 1.

“Those were good times. A lot of people thought he was the coach before me,” Mapps said. “Right as I was about to start my career my Dad was retiring from Coors. What a great thing for him and I. He was able to come everyday. He did our scorebook. He worked on the field. He relaced kids’ gloves. The kids just fell in love with him because of the kind of person he was.”

Bart Mapps passed away in 2013.

Mapps will continue to teach physical education at Pomona next school year. He also plans on getting back into coaching sooner rather than later.

“This is what I do. Coaching is in my blood. I can’t stop. I’m a terrible golfer,” Mapps admitted with a laugh. “I won’t be away for long. It will be hard for me to be away from the game for very long. I’m sure there will be some opportunities.”

Mapps felt like it was an ideal time to turn over Pomona’s baseball program after going through the COVID pandemic that cancelled the 2020 high school season completely in Colorado and shortened this season.

EJ Mapps goes over the ground rules with the umpires and Mountain Range coach D.J. Yeager. Yeager was actually on Pomona's 2003 state baseball championship team that Mapps coached. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“Last year with COVID I think that sucked the life out of a lot of us,” Mapps said. “I’m assume they will go back to a normal full regular season next year. I feel like it’s a great time for the next person to take the reins and start off on the right foot. The cupboard, in my opinion, is still stocked.”

Pomona had more than 70 students tryout for baseball this spring.

“The school is a great place. The administration has been totally supportive in everything we wanted to do,” said Mapps, who had Pomona’s principal Andy Geise and athletic director Mike Santarelli on hand Thursday for his final game.

Santarelli spoke before Thursday’s game simply saying, “Coach Mapps did it the right way.”

“I just appreciate all the players and their families. The support they have given to the program and me personally,” Mapps said. “I feel like everyone here is family. This is a special place for sure.”

EJ Mapps spent 28 years at the head baseball coach at Pomona High School. He coached his final game for the Panthers on Thursday in a 7-6 loss to Mountain Range. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)