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New coach ready to regain fun for Falcon baseball team
Jeff Hodson has a simple goal for the Falcon baseball team.
Play for fun.
Along the way, he wants to instill character and make the South Whidbey High School baseball squad the ultimate destination for South End sluggers.
“We’re looking at it from a standpoint of more than baseball itself,” Hodson said.
The Falcon baseball season begins Monday with a new head coach for the first time in more than a decade. Hodson is helming the varsity team.
He may be new to the head coaching job, but not the team or the school. Hodson shares a name with his better known brother Mark Hodson, who coaches the Falcon football team. The new 49-year-old baseball coach helped his younger sibling with scouting and taping the football games this year, too.
Hodson, whose younger son played for the Falcon teams a few years back, was also the junior varsity coach the past two years. After longtime coach Dave Guetlin resigned to spend more time with his family, Hodson saw a chance to take the Falcons back to relevance.
“I felt there was an opportunity to get the program to a point where it thrives,” Hodson said.
“It works out with my job that I can afford the time to give to these kids.”
After a couple months of searching for a baseball coach, first-year athletic director Scott Mauk promoted Hodson to the big gig. The hiring was official in October, and at the time Mauk said he wanted to have a new coach in place to get students excited to play.
“Jeff brings a management sensibility and a big picture sensibility that makes a lot of sense to us,” Mauk said.
“He has the personality to smooth over some of the rough edges of the past, and he has the courage to wade into some of those rifts.”
“As the leader of the department, I want character, integrity and sportsmanship at the top. Wins will come after that,” Mauk said.
Last year, the Falcon baseball team struggled through a 3-15 record — the worst in several years. Frustration with a long, losing season took its toll on the players (all 21 of them between two teams), and Hodson saw morale erode.
“At the JV level, there was a love of the game that these kids wanted to experience, and that was extinguished in some ways,” Hodson said.
An early announcement also gave Hodson time to build relationships with the youth programs like South Whidbey Little League, the Whidbey Crabs and possibly a South Whidbey American Legion team. It’s part of the attempt by Mauk to bring the high school’s teams to prominence again, and his new baseball coach agreed.
“I want to make the high school program the premier baseball club on the South End,” Hodson said.
Winning — and losing — are secondary objectives, however. First, the baseball team needs players, and that led Hodson to seek some athletes who spent a few seasons off the field.
“I want the bodies out there. If anything, they can push the other kids to make them better,” Hodson said. “If I make the environment enjoyable, even the practices, and we have kids out there, the more we can do with the practices covering different positions and things like that.”
While Hodson and his assistants Tom Fallon and Brendan Christensen are still working on their specializations — batting, pitching, hitting, etc. — the head coach said his role would be like a manager.
“I see my role more as helping these kids learn life lessons,” Hodson said. “I’m a big ‘baseball as life’ guy.”
He wasn’t kidding. Just read the analogy he used.
“A lot of the experiences in baseball transfer to life. If you look at home plate for example, you’re going to face embarrassment, you’re going to face fear, you’re going to have euphoria. You’re going to win at that plate, you’re going to lose at that plate. You’re going to get ripped on some calls at that plate, and you’re going to get by on some calls.”
“I really want the kids to go through all of those experiences, learn how to handle them and then we transfer how they dealt with that appropriately into all areas of life.”
The South Whidbey baseball team, weather permitting, will have a 100-inning baseball game and cookout to kick off the season Saturday, March 3.
The intra-squad game begins at 8 a.m. and will go until the late afternoon.