Former player of Gary Hatch and now former coaching counterpart, Squalicum coach John Inge, had a saying whenever he faced a Hatch-coached Mariners club.
“It was always a challenge, and like I said, I did always feel like going in we had to play great just to be even,” Inge said in a phone interview, “because he is going to find something he can exploit that the average coach does not.”
Class act, terrific motivator, inspirational: adjectives brimming with praise came fast and furious from some of those who’ve known longtime Sehome coach Gary Hatch best.
For 42 years Hatch helped develop young men into adults using a baseball medium and has created lasting relationships along the way.
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Players have admired his unique, innovative take on teaching the game, coaches have applauded how prepared and fundamentally sound his teams were and those who work with him rave about his character.
Longtime Burlington-Edison coach Jim Clem, who coached the Tigers from 1979-2006 and coached the Bellingham Bells with Hatch for three seasons, received the rare opportunity to coach with Hatch and compete against him for numerous years.
“First of all, let me just say he is the best coach I know,” Clem said in a phone interview, “and there is not a close second. As great of a coach as he is, he is a better man. That is a big loss to the game of baseball for the community. He has set the standard for what teams should look like when they are competing, and it’s just been a joy to compete against him and also share the same uniform.”
During the 80s, 90s and 2000s, often times league titles were decided between Burlington-Edison and Sehome. The games were always ones, Clem said, players circled on their calenders.
And when Clem got the chance to coach alongside Hatch with the Bells in 2011, Clem called it one of the best experiences of his life.
Besides the everyday positive, infectious, upbeat attitude Hatch brought to the clubhouse, what made Hatch such a great coach, Clem said, was his ability to motivate and practice the work ethic he preached.
“One of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and the reason he is such a good motivator is because he accentuates the positives,” Clem said. “He has an attitude that anything is possible. And that is what makes him the guy that he is and that is why people respect him and enjoy playing for him.”
In a record book titled “Sehome Baseball” by Ben Fox, former player Dane Siegfried, who played on Hatch’s 2007 and 2008 state title teams, provided a quote on what it was like to play under the Hall of Fame coach.
“There is nothing better,” Siegfried said. “Playing in the Sehome program you learn how to play the game right, and you learn how to be a good person. He made you believe in yourself and your teammates. I think it would be hard to find another coach anywhere who gets his teams to reach their highest potential like he does. He’s a legend.”
Arguably no one has had a closer baseball relationship and friendship with Hatch than longtime Mariners assistant Monte Walton.
“He was a great teammate,” said Walton of Hatch. “He’s been a great friend, a great mentor. He’s always been there when I needed him. ... He is a family guy, but right behind that has to be baseball. Family first, but baseball is barely behind that.”
Since ‘79 Walton has coached with Hatch, and Walton said the head coach’s desire to be the best is what sets him apart.
“He’s never stopped learning about new things and wanting to learn,” Walton said. “He’s always on the internet or buying DVDs or going to coaching clinics or talking to people on the phone. He has that inner drive and has been that kind of coach and that kind of a person.”
And for nearly half a century Sehome High and the entire Whatcom County baseball community has reaped the benefits.
Hatch’s words of wisdom
One the aspects that made Sehome coach Gary Hatch so beloved was his colorful stories and some of the interesting phrases he regularly used. Here is a look at a few of Hatch’s many gems from over the years:
“Hum babe” - Hatch’s favorite “go get ’em” phase.
“Exclusive moment” - Hatch’s way of describing big moments in games.
“Having some bark on your skin” - Hatch’s way of saying a player has some toughness and grit to him.
“Clutching up” - Hatch’s way of saying a player came up big in a key moment of a game.
“It was like they were holding hands out there" - Hatch’s way of saying his team had hard hits right at players.
“I drove up and there was a lake in right field and there were like 25 seagulls in the lake. And they weren’t standing — they were paddling.” - Hatch describing the state of the baseball field at Sehome during a rainy spring.