Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
As someone who enjoys sports memorabilia, Joe Hagler has unearthed some childhood gems over the past few years that likely could go for top dollar if he ever had interest in parting with his treasures.
The money potential, however, wasn't what led him to hold onto the various baseball cards and posters of eventual Hall of Fame baseball players. For Hagler, the memories and personal interest each hold are the most important.
The same goes for his coaching career, which has been vast and highlighted by his service at Phoenix High School with the baseball, football and wrestling programs. When Hagler started at Phoenix in 1979, there was little thought given to future rewards — and that's why he was so touched and honored recently to be inducted into the Oregon High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Hagler was a featured part of the 14th annual celebration on Nov. 5 in Wilsonville and was joined by fellow inductees Jerry Gatto (Cleveland High), Barney Koch (Grant High), John O'Malley (South Umpqua High) and Terry Stephenson (Philomath High) and merit award honoree Joe Etzel of the University of Portland.
"It was a surprise thing," Hagler, 57, said of first learning of his honor last year. "When you start coaching and you're teaching, you don't really think about that kind of stuff. You think about your classroom and teaching and raising your family and helping kids, but never anything down the road like this."
What transpired down the road for Hagler was a 24-year run as head coach of the baseball program at Phoenix (1981-85 and 1990-2008) and an overall coaching record of 404-248. Hagler's Pirates won three league championships and one state title in 1998 in 11 state tournament appearances.
In research done by Doug Calvert of Warrenton High School, Hagler's 404 wins rank 23rd on the state's all-time coaching list for baseball.
"The thing that means the most to me are that the kids that leave the program still love the game," said Hagler. "A number of them are still playing or coaching or attached in some way to baseball."
"Being a part of something like this is very special," he added, "but an award like this is not just about me. I had some good assistant coaches in guys like Brent Watts, Steve Goodkin and Hank Munn and a lot of good ballplayers, as well as just good people in the program and good parent support."
Hagler was named the Class 3A state baseball coach of the year and boys coach of the year in 1998. A lifelong Pirate — he graduated from Phoenix in 1972 — Hagler has been a teacher at the school since graduating from Southern Oregon University in 1978 to accompany his various coaching duties. Whether it's been as an assistant coach, as he has been in baseball, football and wrestling, or head coach — in baseball and football — Hagler said he's experienced all the highs and lows one can when it comes to competition.
Hagler most recently has served as a wrestling coach at Cascade Christian High and currently is an assistant coach for the Crater baseball program. While coaching football was his favorite thing to do in the early years, he said coaching baseball has provided the most overall satisfaction.
"Baseball, of the three, is probably the hardest one because of all its dynamics," said Hagler. "There were some challenges, and the challenges were probably what kept me in it."
By nature, Hagler said he's somewhat addicted to strategy.
"Baseball's one of those sports where you can do everything right and be wrong and do everything wrong and be right," Hagler said with a laugh. "It's a challenge all the time. When some kid throws his best game against you and you've got to try to beat that, it's fun. Sometimes it was so frustrating but it was one of those things you wanted to figure out. It's like a puzzle."
Being surrounded by like-minded individuals two weeks ago was quite a treat for Hagler, who also had family on hand for the induction ceremony in which all the honorees were asked to speak. Each inductee received a commemorative plaque and Hall of Fame ring during the festivities.
"It was an emotional night because those guys are people I highly respect," he said of his peers. "There were some quality people there and I enjoyed listening to them a lot. It was very beneficial to me and I was overwhelmed a little bit listening to them all talk."
Hagler said the night's events went by pretty fast because it was so enjoyable, although having to give his own speech wasn't high on the list of things he wanted to do.
"I worry about that stuff because I don't speak well in public like that and the more I heard everyone else I thought, 'Oh man, this is going to be tough,' and it was," he said, "but I think because it was a baseball thing, it made it a little easier. It's always a little easier to talk when it's about something you know and love."
THREE SOCCER TEAMS will vie for berths in state championship finals today when they take the pitch during semifinal action, with two games here in the Rogue Valley.
St. Mary's will look to send its boys and girls soccer teams to the Class 3A/2A/1A state final for the second straight year, while Phoenix will vie for a spot in the Class 4A state final.
The St. Mary's girls (14-0-1) kick off action at U.S. Cellular Community Park at 2:30 p.m. with a game against Oregon Episcopal (11-3-2), with the Phoenix boys (13-3-1) playing at the same site at 5:30 p.m. against visiting Stayton (16-1), the defending state champion.
The top four teams in terms of power rankings have advanced to the semifinals in the 4A boys and 3A/2A/1A girls brackets, creating a powerhouse day.
In 4A boys, it's No. 1 Phoenix against No. 4 Stayton and No. 2 Molalla (13-2-2) hosting No. 3 Philomath (13-1-3).
In 3A/2a/1A girls, St. Mary's is No. 2 and OES No. 3, while top-ranked Catlin Gabel (14-1-2), whose only loss was against St. Mary's earlier this season, hosts No. 4 Western Mennonite/Perrydale (15-0).
The top-seeded Crusader boys (14-1) face a 6 p.m. road test at George Fox University against red-hot Dayton (11-7-1), which has upset the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in the bottom half of the bracket to reach the semifinals. Dayton, No. 11 in the power rankings, has allowed only one goal per game in four league and state playoff victories, while second-ranked St. Mary's has averaged five goals per game in the state playoffs.
The other semifinal features No. 1 Riverside (17-0) at No. 5 Pleasant Hill (12-2-2).
Championship games for boys and girls in all classifications will be played on Saturday at Liberty High in Hillsboro.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry