Eugene Challengers gets a new winning coach

The Eugene Challengers American Legion baseball team will have a new coach this spring: Kenny Niles, a player and veteran coach, who will bring his knowledge and years of winning experience to the “squad.

“On behalf of the entire Eugene Challengers organization, we are excited to have Coach Kenny Niles as the next head baseball coach of our organization,” said Dale W. Hartley – President Eugene Challengers Board of Directors.

The Challengers Organization has a long history and rich tradition of producing quality Championship level teams and players and Coach Niles brings to the organization his own long history and rich tradition of success.

For over 40 years the Challengers organization has competed at the highest level of American Legion baseball and we look forward to many more successful years of caring on that tradition and success with Coach Niles.  Hartley said, “I encourage and invite you all to come out to our beautiful home field “Swede Johnson Stadium” and enjoy the some of the best American Legion baseball in the Pacific Northwest right here in Eugene.”

Niles is entering his 19th year as a high school baseball coach and is currently the Head Varsity Coach at Churchill High School where he has lead the Lancers to 3 straight semi-final appearances.

Niles graduated from Grant Union High School in 1993. During his time there he was an all-league outfielder and helped lead his team to a State Title. After high school, Niles played on the Central Oregon Community College Club team in hopes of furthering his baseball career. Niles had a career-ending illness and soon found a love for coaching.

Niles started his coaching career as the Head Coach of the Central Oregon Community College club team, and over the next 20 plus years he has coached at Mt. View, Bend, Grant Union, and Sisters High School and has received league Coach of the Year honors 4 times.

Before taking over the Lancers, Niles had a successful 6-year career at Sheldon High School. In 2007, he lead the Irish to the Southwest Conference title and a number #1 ranking in OSAA 6A. That team was anchored by 3 Oregon State signees and 2 players that were selected in the MLB draft. The Irish were ranked in the top 50 nationally.

One of his recent accomplishments as the Lancer’s head coach was winning the 2017 5A State Championship with a record of 29-3. That year Niles was selected to be the head coach of the South All-Stars in the Oregon All-Star Series. The South won the series and three of his Lancers received individual honors which included: Most Outstanding South Pitcher, Most Outstanding South Player, and Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.

During his stint at Churchill, Niles has had the honor of coaching over 10 All-State baseball selections. The Lancers have rostered the 5A State Pitcher of the Year the past 3 seasons, the 5A State Player of the Year in 2017, and Niles was selected the OACA Baseball Coach of the Year in 2017. In addition, 15 of his last 20 graduated seniors have gone on to play collegiately and this year’s team has 6 college committed players already. His Churchill summer team has won the Junior State Championship in 2017 and 2018 with a combined record of 55-6.

Niles acknowledges the list of coaches that have led the Challengers organization before him is truly amazing.

When asked what it means to become the next Challengers coach Niles said, “Some of the best baseball minds around have left a blueprint of what being a Challenger truly encompasses. We will work diligently on making sure we’re creating great student-athletes on and off the field. Being part of an organization that so many people have sacrificed so much time and effort is truly a privilege to be a part of.”

“As coaches, it is important that we realize the responsibility that comes with wearing that EC hat every day and getting to play at Swede Johnson Stadium. We will embrace this journey and provide a product the local community can proudly stand behind.”

When Kenny is not at the field he is in the classroom teaching Special Education at Churchill High School. He enjoys the outdoors but particularly the summer nights in Eugene. He likes watching baseball under the lights. Kenny is married to his wife Jennifer and they have a 2-year-old son, Camden Jacob (of course named after two baseball fields). Kenny’s parents live in Eugene and help tremendously with the family baseball experience. You will often see his father Roy mowing the field while his mother Gail is helping chase Camden around. Family means a lot to Coach Niles and that includes the players he coaches.