Sports

Dean of coaches retires

Jim Waller and the Oak Harbor High School baseball team honor America at the playing of the National Anthem before the final game of the 2008 season and Waller’s final game as head coach.  - Jim Woolbright/Whidbey News-Times
Jim Waller and the Oak Harbor High School baseball team honor America at the playing of the National Anthem before the final game of the 2008 season and Waller’s final game as head coach.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright/Whidbey News-Times

After 30 years, the Oak Harbor High School baseball team will have a new face in the third base coaching box next season.

Jim Waller, the dean of coaches in the WesCo North, announced he is retiring from his position as head of the Wildcat baseball program.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching for 30 years,” said Waller, who retired from his high school teaching position at Oak Harbor in 2007. “I just don’t have the energy anymore to do all the ‘little things’ you have to do to have a successful program.”

The highlight of Waller’s career was in 1990 when he guided the Wildcats to the state championship game, losing 1-0 to Fort Vancouver at Cheney Stadium.

In 1990 Oak Harbor finished second in the WesCo, but everything fell in place during the playoffs and the Wildcats made it all the way to the title game.

In recent seasons the Oak Harbor diamond crew has fallen on hard times, mostly due to injuries to key players, and during the short high school season, players simply don’t have the time to completely recover.

Waller said he was going to stop coaching baseball after the 2007 season, but had no problem returning to the baseball diamond for another year.

One of the major projects ahead is improving the baseball facilities at the school.

“This will involve a lot of fundraising and other activities to get things going and spearhead the project, and this is one of the things I just don’t have the energy to do anymore,” Waller said.

Memories of games during Waller’s career abound, especially from retired Oak Harbor athletic director Bob Smithson, who was the head baseball coach at Cascade High School in Everett for 14 years,

“I competed against Jim many times and our teams had some great games against one another,” Smithson said. “Jim knew the game and he always did things right. His teams always played hard.”

Smithson said many schools did not like to come to the island to play, but he always enjoyed bringing his Bruins over the bridge for a game.

“One of the things I remember most about the old field was they didn’t have a fence down the third base line,” he said. “Between innings, I used to chat with all the ‘old timers’ who sat down the line and then go back to the third base coaching box when the inning started.”

Smithson offered high praise for Waller for all the contributions he has made over the years.

“He is as solid as they come in terms of personal integrity,” Smithson said. “He’s just a good man.”

Waller said he thought it was time for him to retire.

“It’s time for a new face in the third base coaching box and maybe the program needs to go another way,” he said.

Waller, who is also an assistant basketball coach, said he is not getting out of the coaching business entirely.

“I will be coaching the A Legion baseball team this summer and I will also be helping Mike Washington with the Oak Harbor varsity basketball team,” he said.

Waller said he’ll still be around if needed. “If the new guy asks I’ll help out when he takes over, but I’ll make it clear I don’t think it’s my right. My head coaching days are over,” he said.

After 30 years, he’s earned a comfortable seat on the sidelines.

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