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Cleveland Leaves CS Christian For The Master’s Academy

Coach Cleveland celebrates Early Signing Day with his seniors in November 2013.

It’s a bittersweet day for Matt Cleveland and the South Florida baseball community.

Over his 12 years as Manager at Coral Springs Christian Academy, Cleveland has always been solely satisfied and focused in his role there. Through the ups and down he had never considered any other place to be. Recently the Crusaders skipper made the difficult decision to move on to a new opportunity, as he accepted the Manager position at The Master’s Academy in Oviedo.

In his dozen years at Coral Springs Christian, Cleveland and his program have grown together in the right direction. He first took over the team shortly after finishing his minor league career, and in that time he helped to groom the program into a worthy contender. The 2014 season culminated in the school’s best finish ever, as the Crusaders made their first appearance at the State Final Four before falling in the Class 3A semifinals in a tough 1-0 decision to eventual-champion North Florida Christian.

Cleveland amassed a 187-131 record in his career, and has also seen many of his former players go on to play college baseball. Several others have been drafted into the Major Leagues, including this year’s 16th overall pick Touki Toussaint, and 321st overall pick Jeremiah Muhammad.

Now Coach Cleveland will look to find the same success in his new home at Master’s.

“The toughest part was telling the players I am leaving,” Cleveland said. “I have no doubt that they will be successful in the years ahead, but I felt it was the right time for me. I felt God was telling me it was time to make a change, and that faith gave me great peace after I left the interview. I am grateful for the great years I had here, and the hardest part is leaving the kids here at CSCA.”

Cleveland has only known the South Florida baseball community. He played both his high school and college baseball in the area, and also enjoyed great success coaching for many years with Richie Palmer at the South Florida Elite. He has always loved being a part of the South Florida baseball community, and he likens things now to how it was when he was a young new coach just starting out 12 years ago.

“In time, it always works itself out,” Cleveland said. “I see a great future for me in Orlando, and Master’s is a top of the line facility. They have a solid foundation of competitive athletics, and they already have a competitive baseball team.”

Master’s recently hired Steve Denny as its new Athletic Director, and Cleveland admits he is impressed with him and excited to work with him. Another appealing and familiar aspect is the fact that the school comprises students from grades kindergarten all the way through to high school, same as at Coral Springs Christian. The ability to see the kids grow through the school and in the baseball program helps to build a sense of pride and community.

Coach Cleveland motivates his players during the 2014 3A state semifinal at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

The Eagles compete in Class 3A, which is the same classification Cleveland knows from the past several years with the Crusaders. He knows what good baseball is played in this class, and just how tough it is to succeed in it. Through his success at his former club, Cleveland admits that previous experience is even more valuable then his familiarity with the teams in Class 3A.

“I know how good and how tough you have to be to win in 3A in the state of Florida,” Cleveland said. “It comes from talent, work in practice, and everybody being on the same page. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of hard work.”

Leaving the South Florida area means Cleveland will also be outside of the current coverage area for HSBN, who he has long been a strong supporter of. Coral Springs Christian regularly competed in the HSBN Broward Game of the Week, and has helped to embrace HSBN’s goal of growing and supporting the baseball community. As HSBN has continued to grow and expand, there is added excitement at the possibility to see the coverage expand to the Orlando area Cleveland will now call home.

“It has been an honor to be included in everything HSBN has done, and I am proud of everything we have done at CSCA,” Cleveland said. “We defied a lot of odds, and as a high school coach I have been in just about every situation. We built this by keeping our young kids, and it has been a reward to feel that sense of community and pride.”

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