Jimmies coach Hager 1 win away from 400JAMESTOWN — Four hundred of anything is a pretty big number. Piling up 400 wins at a small, private college in North Dakota pretty much speaks for itself. Throw in the fact that Jamestown College baseball coach Tom Hager has done so before turning 40 and it’s easy to see why the program has become nationally significant in the NAIA, in a snow state, nonetheless.
By: Dave Selvig , Forum Communications Co.
JAMESTOWN — Four hundred of anything is a pretty big number.
Piling up 400 wins at a small, private college in North Dakota pretty much speaks for itself. Throw in the fact that Jamestown College baseball coach Tom Hager has done so before turning 40 and it’s easy to see why the program has become nationally significant in the NAIA, in a snow state, nonetheless.
Hager is just one win short of the 400 mark. The program has averaged 32 wins per season since he took over in 2000 and he sits just one win short of 400 heading into today’s game in Aberdeen against Northern State.
It’s been a team effort right from the start, he said.
“What it tells me is that I’ve been lucky enough to have some great players, lucky enough to have great coaches and I’m at a school that gives you a chance to win,” Hager said. “The other thing I feel lucky about is that I learned the game from my dad (Bob Hager) and I got a chance to play for and coach with some great coaches. You try to take a lot from all of those people and that’s made me who I am today.”
When it comes to Hager and the tradition he’s built at Jamestown College, the school’s athletic director — Lawrie Paulson — says luck has little to do with it.
“Tom is the complete package and what I mean by that is that he’s smart, articulate, he knows his stuff and he’s a workaholic,” said Paulson. “He’s always on the phone recruiting, setting up the next practice or trying to find somewhere to play if a game gets canceled.
“If he’s not actively doing something that will be beneficial to his program, he’s thinking about something that will be beneficial to the baseball program. I’ve had a front row seat to this. I see it in action.”
Before Hager took over, the school had won one conference championship. They’ve won four since, plus three region titles, four national tournament appearances and gone to a pair NAIA World Series. The program has also produced seven pros, the latest being Alex Kreis, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals last June.
The program has been built from the inside out. You don’t need to spend much time out and about in Jamestown without seeing a baseball player wearing Jimmie gear from head to toe. They preach unity and a family atmosphere and that’s reflected in the coaching staff.
During Hager’s tenure every assistant coach he’s had played for him and they’ve often stuck around for a while whether it be Kevin Berg, or Tim Nelson, Jim Klemann or current assistant Boya Quichocho, who has been on campus for more than half of Hager’s tenure.
“Often times with small college baseball programs you have coaching staffs that are just thrown together. I’ve been really fortunate to keep a lot of my former players on board and they’re very dedicated to this program and this college,” Hager said. “That has been very important to what we’ve been able to accomplish and I’m very thankful for all the guys that have coached for me.”
Of course you need good players too and they’ve had a bunch. They’ve tried to bring in as many local products as possible and then extended their recruiting reach all over the country.
“There’s no secret in order to be successful. We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. You just needed to look 100 miles down the road to see we could do this,” Hager said. “We’ve been fortunate to bring in some very good instate players and we’ve also been lucky to sign some guys from far away states to buy in to the family atmosphere we have.”
Anybody who has seen a Jimmie practice or Hager in action on, or around, the coaching box down the third-base line knows he does everything all out.
“The guy works 12 months a year,” Paulson said. “You combine that with talent and this is what you get.”
But he understands it’s a game, and enjoying it is important too.
“This is a special place to coach. I really enjoy it here. However long I’m here or anywhere else, my intention is to approach every day with the same attitude — work hard and have fun,” Hager said. “I feel pretty lucky to be a baseball coach.”
Selvig is the sports editor of The Jamestown Sun, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.