Issaquah head baseball coach Rob Reese picked up an honor during the offseason recently, when the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association enshrined him into their Hall of Fame.
Reese owns a 333-157 record, three state championships in 2000, 2004 and 2007, six trips to the semi-finals and 13 state tournament appearances in his 20 seasons.
Countless numbers of his players have continued to the collegiate ranks and even professional baseball. That group is headlined by 2003 graduate Colin Curtis, who played at Arizona State University before spending time with the New York Yankees.
Reese and the Eagles finished 20-3 and with a KingCo title and state tournament trip in his first year. He has compiled six 20-win seasons against only four with double-digit losses. Only once, in 2011, did the Eagles finish the year with a sub-.500 record during Reese’s tenure.
The Interlake High School graduate and former teammate of MLB great John Olerud took some time to chat with the Reporter about his years at Issaquah, life away from the dugout and coaching against his son, who plays for 4A KingCo rival Newport.
ISSAQUAH-SAMMAMISH REPORTER: In the 20 years you have been coaching, what are the biggest changes you have seen in the young men you coach?
ROB REESE: I don’t know how much they’ve changed, except for texting and cell phones and all that kind of stuff. That wasn’t around. It used to be a lot more work to get ahold of them to reschedule a practice.
Some of the weight raining stuff is different. There is a lot more offseason stuff and in our weight program, we use Derek Decatur and it is all specialized for baseball rather than just the old get as big as you can.
REPORTER: What is the same as it has always been?
REESE: Wanting to win and being competitive and trying to win a state championship, that is all the same. Being part of a great program and the tradition we have, that is important to these guys and they want to be part of it.
REPORTER: What is your most memorable moment on the diamond?
REESE: Obviously, the three state championships. The last one where we beat Auburn and were huge underdogs, that is a huge memory I think about all the time. Obviously watching Colin make it to the big leagues was a pretty special deal. I told his parents the other night just how neat it was to follow that whole story. We would hear from all the assistants and ex-players. That was a pretty special deal watching his progression.
REPORTER: What has been the biggest impact on your life outside the dugout?
REESE: The relationships, the ex-players who come back and coach, guys like Mark and George who have become part of our program, going from being a coach to a peer and a friend. You’ve been there so long, they are old enough to grow up and hang out. That is kind of cool. That and the relationships with the coaching staff. Coach Caponigro has been here all 20 years, Steve Sanelli 14, coach Bruce Johnson nine. Those are just special bonds. It’s so neat to show up and pick up where you left off. You can get a lot more done when guys know what is going on.
REPORTER: How do you keep 20 years of memories in order?
REESE: We had a thing my wife put on and she asked me to pull out the team pictures. I pulled out 20 years. It’s just a number, but when you lay out 20 team pictures and start framing them up, it kinds of hits you. That is a long time and a lot of kids. We had amazing talent, a great school and supportive administration that loves sports.
REPORTER: What does your induction mean to you?
REESE: It’s pretty humbling. I guess they’re trying to tell me I’m getting old. I showed up in the banquet room at Safeco Field and I looked around and I thought it was 1994 again. All these coaches I coached against 15 years ago and are now retired. It is cool to be part of that group. You aspire to have that effect on kids’ lives. To be included in that group is pretty special. My high school coach and coach I played for at Bellevue College is in there. To be associated with his name is pretty special.
REPORTER: You have a son who plays at Newport, the main rival of Issaquah. What was it like when you played them?
REESE:It We’ve grown up the last 20 years, he was at an Issaquah game the day after he was born. My wife got out of the hospital and she stopped to say hi. He’s grown up wearing Issaquah stuff. To go to Newport, it is a little weird. He got two hits against us last year in a game and we ended up winning but I told him I’d let him have a few hits as long as we win. He has such a special group he’s grown up with, he needed to go there and play there. I don’t get to see him all the time and that is difficult, but my wife goes and keeps me posted. He plays for me in the summer. It’s definitely different. Last year when he came up to bat it was dead silent, both dugouts. I wouldn’t change it right now, he’s doing good. I wish I had him, he’s a pretty good player. It is an awkward feeling. I’ve never rooted for anyone on the other team to get a hit before. When he got those hits, I couldn’t cheer in our dugout. Everyone is good about it, our parents and kids play together during summer.
REPORTER: When you’re finished coaching, what do you want to be remembered for?
REESE: I hope they say we did it right and we compete. I don’t worry about who we’re playing or what the match-ups are. If we do what we’re supposed to, we will win because of our talent. Doing it right, first class and going out and competing. Hopefully those guys leave a lasting impression on those kids. I think we have, because they all seem to come back.