Ten years ago, Nick Brannan took over as the head coach of Milford’s baseball team, from the start one thing was very clear about him. He had a quiet air of confidence about him, he also had the wisdom to know he couldn’t do it alone. In his very first year at the helm, Brannan led the Buccaneers to the state title game, falling to Saint Mark’s by a 4-3 score. While the Buccaneers haven’t been back to the title game since, the Milford baseball program is one of the more highly regarded teams in Delaware.
This past Saturday was a microcosm of Brannan’s leadership style. Just two days earlier, Milford had gotten its socks knocked off by a hard-hitting Sussex Central team, with the Buccaneers finding themselves on the wrong end of a 21-2 score. It was the third consecutive loss for Milford, as Brannan sat on 99 wins. “Wow, Central just came out and hit the ball so incredibly well. It wasn’t like we were walking them or making errors, they just knocked the cover off the ball,” he said. “Some games are just like that; you have to have a short memory and know that your next chance to win is coming up in your next game.”
It had been a difficult stretch for Milford following Brannan’s 99th win on April 22. The Buccaneers found themselves on the wrong end of two, one-run games prior to the pounding by Central. “I don’t think the team felt pressure to get the win, everyone knew it was something we all wanted, but we didn’t press. The guys wanted it for sure, but like always the most important thing is to win the game and that is just what they were trying to do,” he said.
Finally, on Saturday, Milford got over the hump. With senior Dale Osterman starting the game, the Buccaneers gave up a run in the first. The Milford offense doubled that in the bottom of the frame, as the Bucs cruised to a 9-2 victory over St. Elizabeth’s. Osterman would strike out three over five innings and junior Aydin Zimmerman would finish out the final two innings, allowing no runs to seal the victory. Both of St. Elizabeth’s runs were unearned.
Speaking with Brannan following the game, I asked him a few questions, the first of which was how he felt. “Blessed, that would be the best way to describe it. This really isn’t something I set out to do, but as the years went by, the wins started to accumulate. The thing of it is, there were so many people who helped me along the way, believed in me,” he said. “Whether it was the players, parents, administrative staff, and most importantly, my fellow coaches, I really am blessed to have had so many people have a hand in this. The one thing I learned early on, is that if you think you are the smartest person in the room and know everything, you will get yourself into trouble. Without the help I received along the way, I probably wouldn’t even be in this job.”
The fact that Brannan called it “a job” made me take pause for a moment. Anyone who has watched Milford over Brannan’s 10 years (nine seasons, thank you COVID) knows that this is a labor of love for him. Early-season games are a prime example – while there are established pitch-count limits, Brannan rarely pushes that envelope. “I have an obligation to make sure these guys stay healthy. I owe it to them and to their parents, they trust me to look out for their best interests and I make sure I get that done,” he said.
This isn’t just about baseball for Brannan, it’s about building relationships. Not everyone gets to start, not everyone gets to play, but they all get treated fairly. “Playing baseball is an extension of the educational process in my mind. I care about what happens to them in their future more than what happens on the field. To have three players that once played for me, now on my coaching staff (Devon Reed, Nick Jefferson and Philip Herber) that tells me I’m making a difference,” he continued. “It’s not just the players who started or were key pieces of teams, it is everyone. I hear from former players all the time, sometimes just to talk or sometimes for advice. Like I said, relationships are what this is really all about.”
Speaking of relationships, Brannan’s greatest love is that of his family. With two sons Cooper and Coy, he is enjoying watching them grow up and learning to enjoy the game Brannan loves so much. However, none of this would be possible without the glue that holds the Brannan family together, his wife Tristin. “Without my beautiful, lovely, thoughtful, caring wife, I wouldn’t be here. She is really the one that keeps it all together. Her belief in me is what keeps me going and I am so grateful to her for all the love and sacrifice she has made to make this dream happen.”
The final question he was asked was how long he hoped to continue coaching. “I don’t have any plans to go anywhere soon. It would probably be the greatest thing in the world for me to coach my boys at Milford. I love this town and the people in it, it’s a real community which I love being a part of,” Brannan said. “Looking ahead, as long as Milford wants me back, I will be here.”