Gary Hatch, Mr. Mariner, has given his final Sehome “hum babe.”
Sehome High School and the Whatcom County baseball community lost a coaching legend Tuesday, June 2, when Hatch revealed he’ll be retiring from teaching and leading the Mariners’ baseball program after 42 dedicated years of service.
“You sit and wonder when is that time, and together my wife and I have decided we got some things on our bucket list we’ve took a look at and want to do before we get too much older,” Hatch said in a phone interview. “We have 12 grandkids, and it’s time to put some quality time into my own family. When you’re teaching, you put a lot of quality time into other kids. A lot of the time we miss the boat on our own kids.”
What a run it’s been for Hatch, whose accomplishments and commitment to teaching baseball rival area coaching greats Joe Martin, Mal Walton, Speedo Southas and Busher Lewis.
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Since Hatch graduated from Brigham Young University in 1973 and moved back to Bellingham to begin coaching and teaching, he’s made a profound impact, and has assembled some of the county’s strongest baseball teams during the past 3 1/2 decades.
Hatch graduated from Sehome High in 1968 and upon return in ’73 served as the Mariners’ assistant baseball coach. He took over the baseball program in 1980 and has been the head man ever since while teaching physical education, social studies and health.
Hatch also coached basketball for 10 years and was a football assistant coach for 32 seasons, but most know him for what he accomplished on the diamond.
Hatch’s track record and accolades speak for themselves.
He owns a lifetime 532-274 record, which places him sixth among Washington state baseball coaches. He won three state championships (1983, 2007, 2008) and played in six title games. During his 36 years coaching, Sehome was among the top 16 teams in the state 18 times.
“The neat thing for me is to be able to be a part of a school that is really open to letting you do your thing,” Hatch said. “Nola Ayers, Pat Fitterer, if you really have a passion for what you do, we rub off on each other and got a really solid base of athletics and academics. You get to a point where you’re just enjoying going to work everyday.”
Besides the record and state championships, Hatch was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1993, was selected Coach of the Year in 1998 and has headed numerous youth baseball coaching programs throughout the county.
Hatch got the opportunity to coach his son, Dane, in high school and also watched his daughters, Lonnie and Brit, graduated from Sehome.
When asked what’s kept the Sehome coaching legend around the game so long, he spoke of his passion for both teaching and coaching, as well as the opportunity through sports to forge tighter bonds with the kids.
“I think when you’re coaching, you get a little bit of a different perspective of getting to know the kids,” Hatch said. “It’s a closer relationship. You’re spending that much more quality time on and off the field going through varsity and the highs and lows of a season. You get to know kids better in that environment.”
Counting the amount of wins and successful seasons Hatch has had is easy. But quantifying the affect he’s had in developing young kids is impossible.
Since Sehome Athletics Director Colin Cushman began teaching and coaching at the school, he’s seen first hand what Hatch has meant to the Sehome community.
“I consider him probably my biggest mentor,” Cushman said. “Since 1992 I have had the privilege to work with him and see how things are done right both on the competitive field and in the classroom. One of the things I really admire about him is his willingness to be a life-long learner. I see him teaching class, and he’s always striving for the next best thing. He’s never satisfied with status quo.”
And one would be hard-pressed to see Hatch pass up a teaching moment.
In fact after Sehome’s Class 2A District Tournament loss to Squalicum — a season-ending winner-to-state, loser-out game — before Hatch exited Anacortes’ Volunteer Park, Cushman saw him provide a teaching moment that encapsulated what Hatch is all about.
“After losing the game, he goes over to the side and sees kids that were playing catch and works with the kids,” Cushman said. “He just finished his game, and it was just some random Anacortes kids. Who does that? He is just such an amazing guy.”
Hatch credited former coaches Bruce Randall, Galen Reimer and Les Galley for helping shape his personal philosophy, but more than any trait, Hatch has prided himself in constructing disciplined ball clubs.
That quality reflected throughout his 36 years leading the Mariners — teams that play fundamentally sound with strong execution.
“They all promoted more than anything discipline,” said Hatch of his former coaches. “When you have discipline, you have a chance, and I think kids look for discipline. We don’t expect you to be perfect, but dog gonnit you can be perfect in your effort everyday.”
That constant strive for perfection has spawned countless special memories, but when pressed to pinpoint one, Hatch turned to his state title teams and great 1997 season in which Sehome went 23-1 and was rated No. 9 on the USA West Coast Coaches Poll.
Hatch wanted to thank his wife Lori, the rest of his family and the Sehome community for all the support he’s received through the years.
Cushman said there is no timetable to name Hatch’s successor, but admitted replacing him will be no easy task.
Hatch won’t be leaving the game entirely. He’ll be working with Brandon Hundt at Bellingham’s Inside Pitch, focusing more on the training aspect of baseball.
“I can’t say enough to live the dream of teaching and coaching,” Hatch said. “I really feel that this has been a special place to work and being around the caliber of kids and families and just community, it’s been a real blessing to be a part of it.”