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Living the dream: Pleasant Sampson’s dream of coaching ‘a reality many times over’


KENTVILLE - Growing up in Kentville, Jason Pleasant Sampson “dabbled in a bit of everything” in terms of sport. 

“Everything you could do, I probably tried,” he says.

By the time he was ready to start university, he had narrowed his field to wrestling and baseball.

“It was great,” he says, “because the seasons don’t overlap.”

As a wrestler, he was talented enough to be recruited by the University of New Brunswick and ended up being part of four straight conference championships. For part of his time there, he served as team captain.

“I had wrestled in high school, and UNB pursued me vigorously,” he said.

Being part of the UNB team – which had 20 straight championships under its belt - “provided me with lots of opportunities to compete,” while earning a degree in kinesiology.

 

Long-time ball player

For nearly 20 years, the 42-year-old has been best known as a baseball player – he is currently one of the longest-serving members of the Kentville senior Wildcats.

“I started with the Wildcats in 1997 - a year later than most of my junior teammates. I had been concentrating on finishing university and I had injured my thumb,” he said.

The Kentville juniors were an impressive group, most of whom would go on to have successful senior baseball careers.

Todd Benjamin, Mike King, Jeff Bishop, Dave Dewar, Kevin Nichols, Luke Smith, Jeff Lockhart and Chris Salsman, to name just a handful, would become the core of a string of extremely successful senior Wildcats’ teams in the late 1990s.

“My teammates were more skilled than me. I was athletic, but they were more developed as baseball players,” Pleasant Sampson said.

The knock on Pleasant Sampson for many years was his hitting – he had good baseball instincts, ran well and played solid defence, but his hitting held him back.

“I’ve worked hard over the years to become a better baseball player. I almost quit a couple of times, because I wasn’t getting a chance to play,” he said.

“I grew up with a bunch of baseball studs. I always wanted to be like them, but I didn’t have their skill set or body size.”

What he did have, though, was perseverance and a will to improve.

“I credit Ian Mosher and Curtis Falls with making me a better hitter,” he says.

Over the years, he says, “I cut down on my swing, concentrated on making contact, putting the ball in play and striking out less.”

In doing so, he made himself a decent hitter, which gives him “a great amount of personal satisfaction.”

“It’s all a process,” he says. “I’d watch someone like Ian Lockhart foul off 9-10 pitches in a row, then get a hit. I thought maybe I could help myself and the team out by having the pitchers throw me as many pitches as possible.”

Over time, he found the biggest correlation came from his defensive play, which he was already good at.

“When I made a good defensive play, it relaxed me, and gave me more confidence when I got to bat,” he said.

Pleasant Sampson’s game has been curtailed a bit the past couple of years by injury, but at one point during the 2014 season, he was hitting .359, among the league leaders.

“A lot of fans and a lot of my ex-teammates probably wonder why I’m still here,” he says. “If you work hard enough, things might work out, and they have.”

 

Sharing a passion for sport

About 15 years ago, Pleasant Sampson returned to university and earned an education degree from Acadia. He worked at Kingston and Pine Ridge, first as an educational assistant and then teaching, before landing a full-time job at Horton 10 years ago.

“I started off teaching math, science and phys ed, but the understanding was that it would eventually become all phys ed,” he said.  

He now teaches phys ed, is Horton’s athletic director and coaches cross-country, wrestling, baseball, track and field, junior basketball and some softball. He is known as “Mr. Pleasant” by his students.

“It’s easier all the way around – not to mention shorter,” he kids.

He has helped coach the Acadia baseball team, the Hantsport junior AAA team and, this year, is an assistant coach with the Kentville junior Wildcats.

“I love teaching,” he says. “Especially in the gym. It’s similar to coaching in a lot of ways. Some things are different – the language you use, for one – but they’re really very similar.”

It’s also the fulfillment of a dream.

“My dream was to be a coach someday. I went to university, got a job, then went back to university so I could get a better job,” he said.

“Coaching remained a dream for a while, but now it’s become a reality, many times over.”

 

Taking it year to year

Now in his 19th season with the Wildcats, Pleasant Sampson has no inclination to quit anytime soon.

“My teaching career helps a lot. I have the summers off, and can allow little injuries to heal.”

Currently, he is “on a year-to-year contract with my mind and body,” but acknowledges the last year has been hard. He was in a car accident and required rehab, then hurt his shoulder in a game.

Pleasant Sampson became a father for the first time over the past year, and acknowledges a lot of things change when you become a parent.

“The next generation is on the horizon,” he says, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to throw in the towel.

“I worked so hard to get where I am, I’m not going to walk away just because someone is younger.”

The Wildcats are struggling this season, which is hard to see, he says.

“In university, I was part of good teams, but I didn’t always feel I was contributing much. Now I feel I’m a better individual, but the teams aren’t doing as well.”

Over the course of his career, he has both won and lost with the Wildcats.

‘Even when we didn’t win, we were still one of the best teams in the country.”

Even when he is done as a player, he can’t see his sports career ending.

“I’ll probably still coach – keep things going, and try to stay a part of it as long as I can,” he said, adding that he enjoys coaching. Especially at the high school level, there aren’t as many volunteer coaches as there used to be.

“I’m still having fun, and I feel there’s still a place for me. When the desire is gone, I’ll shut it down. I’ll know when the time comes. “

 

“Everything you could do, I probably tried,” he says.

By the time he was ready to start university, he had narrowed his field to wrestling and baseball.

“It was great,” he says, “because the seasons don’t overlap.”

As a wrestler, he was talented enough to be recruited by the University of New Brunswick and ended up being part of four straight conference championships. For part of his time there, he served as team captain.

“I had wrestled in high school, and UNB pursued me vigorously,” he said.

Being part of the UNB team – which had 20 straight championships under its belt - “provided me with lots of opportunities to compete,” while earning a degree in kinesiology.

 

Long-time ball player

For nearly 20 years, the 42-year-old has been best known as a baseball player – he is currently one of the longest-serving members of the Kentville senior Wildcats.

“I started with the Wildcats in 1997 - a year later than most of my junior teammates. I had been concentrating on finishing university and I had injured my thumb,” he said.

The Kentville juniors were an impressive group, most of whom would go on to have successful senior baseball careers.

Todd Benjamin, Mike King, Jeff Bishop, Dave Dewar, Kevin Nichols, Luke Smith, Jeff Lockhart and Chris Salsman, to name just a handful, would become the core of a string of extremely successful senior Wildcats’ teams in the late 1990s.

“My teammates were more skilled than me. I was athletic, but they were more developed as baseball players,” Pleasant Sampson said.

The knock on Pleasant Sampson for many years was his hitting – he had good baseball instincts, ran well and played solid defence, but his hitting held him back.

“I’ve worked hard over the years to become a better baseball player. I almost quit a couple of times, because I wasn’t getting a chance to play,” he said.

“I grew up with a bunch of baseball studs. I always wanted to be like them, but I didn’t have their skill set or body size.”

What he did have, though, was perseverance and a will to improve.

“I credit Ian Mosher and Curtis Falls with making me a better hitter,” he says.

Over the years, he says, “I cut down on my swing, concentrated on making contact, putting the ball in play and striking out less.”

In doing so, he made himself a decent hitter, which gives him “a great amount of personal satisfaction.”

“It’s all a process,” he says. “I’d watch someone like Ian Lockhart foul off 9-10 pitches in a row, then get a hit. I thought maybe I could help myself and the team out by having the pitchers throw me as many pitches as possible.”

Over time, he found the biggest correlation came from his defensive play, which he was already good at.

“When I made a good defensive play, it relaxed me, and gave me more confidence when I got to bat,” he said.

Pleasant Sampson’s game has been curtailed a bit the past couple of years by injury, but at one point during the 2014 season, he was hitting .359, among the league leaders.

“A lot of fans and a lot of my ex-teammates probably wonder why I’m still here,” he says. “If you work hard enough, things might work out, and they have.”

 

Sharing a passion for sport

About 15 years ago, Pleasant Sampson returned to university and earned an education degree from Acadia. He worked at Kingston and Pine Ridge, first as an educational assistant and then teaching, before landing a full-time job at Horton 10 years ago.

“I started off teaching math, science and phys ed, but the understanding was that it would eventually become all phys ed,” he said.  

He now teaches phys ed, is Horton’s athletic director and coaches cross-country, wrestling, baseball, track and field, junior basketball and some softball. He is known as “Mr. Pleasant” by his students.

“It’s easier all the way around – not to mention shorter,” he kids.

He has helped coach the Acadia baseball team, the Hantsport junior AAA team and, this year, is an assistant coach with the Kentville junior Wildcats.

“I love teaching,” he says. “Especially in the gym. It’s similar to coaching in a lot of ways. Some things are different – the language you use, for one – but they’re really very similar.”

It’s also the fulfillment of a dream.

“My dream was to be a coach someday. I went to university, got a job, then went back to university so I could get a better job,” he said.

“Coaching remained a dream for a while, but now it’s become a reality, many times over.”

 

Taking it year to year

Now in his 19th season with the Wildcats, Pleasant Sampson has no inclination to quit anytime soon.

“My teaching career helps a lot. I have the summers off, and can allow little injuries to heal.”

Currently, he is “on a year-to-year contract with my mind and body,” but acknowledges the last year has been hard. He was in a car accident and required rehab, then hurt his shoulder in a game.

Pleasant Sampson became a father for the first time over the past year, and acknowledges a lot of things change when you become a parent.

“The next generation is on the horizon,” he says, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to throw in the towel.

“I worked so hard to get where I am, I’m not going to walk away just because someone is younger.”

The Wildcats are struggling this season, which is hard to see, he says.

“In university, I was part of good teams, but I didn’t always feel I was contributing much. Now I feel I’m a better individual, but the teams aren’t doing as well.”

Over the course of his career, he has both won and lost with the Wildcats.

‘Even when we didn’t win, we were still one of the best teams in the country.”

Even when he is done as a player, he can’t see his sports career ending.

“I’ll probably still coach – keep things going, and try to stay a part of it as long as I can,” he said, adding that he enjoys coaching. Especially at the high school level, there aren’t as many volunteer coaches as there used to be.

“I’m still having fun, and I feel there’s still a place for me. When the desire is gone, I’ll shut it down. I’ll know when the time comes. “

 

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