Forty-six years in coaching came to a fitting geographical conclusion for Bill Havard last week.
It was a battle for second place between Redlands East Valley against Havard’s Redlands High squad.
The buzz surrounding this baseball duel — Terriers against the Wildcats — was only part of the story.
Harvard’s run as a longtime assistant coach was coming to an end.
“This is it,” said Havard, who has probably logged more coaching hours than any other coach in the Terriers’ self-proclaimed “Long Blue Line” history of the 129-year-old campus. “I’m done after this season.”
You figure: A couple dozen baseball players each year. Throw in 50-plus football players annually. Over, say, 46 years, it amounts to hundreds.
“The thank-you’s and gratitude from hundreds of former players,” Havard says, “is what makes it all worthwhile.”
Game site was at the University of Redlands, which is where Havard showed up to play football and baseball, study and launch a coaching career from his hometown digs — graduated in 1968 from Edgewood High in West Covina — way back in the 1970s.
From that long-ago era, you could still hear his shrill voice from that third base coaching box at his college stop.
“Bat on ball right here!”
It’s the kind of chatter that hit home.
He was a career assistant for the likes of football’s Paul Womack, Jim Evans, Mike Churchill and Jim Walker.
Throw in his springtime baseball work alongside head coaches Don DeWees, Bob Ramirez and Estevan Valencia.
During his UofR days, Havard, a 1972 graduate, was associated with plenty of coaching forces — tennis’ Jim Verdieck, football’s Frank Serrao, plus longtime athletic director Ted Runner.
Throw in the brotherhood guys — basketball’s Randy Genung, football’s Chuck Baker and Miguel Olmedo. There are loads of others.
He was probably more in charge than anyone might admit.
Onetime Redlands High principal Tom Davis said years ago that Havard could be Terriers’ head coach, either in football or baseball.
“All he’d have to do is wiggle his little finger if he wanted to be a head coach,” said Davis, Havard’s principal from the mid-1980s through 1997, “and he’s got it.”
At the time, Davis made it clear that meant either sport, though the more likely assignment would’ve on the diamond.
That head coaching gig came at UofR when veteran coach Paul Taylor retired. Bulldog officials went for the former Bulldog shortstop. Havard had been offered the head coaching job at San Gorgonio High, but declined — no full-time teaching job.
Coaching college — recruiting, scheduling, meetings, administrative duties, field maintenance, plus all that travel and extra duty — was probably too much for a young family. Havard, his wife Claudia and their sons Rich, John and Tim, were holed up over on Pacific Street.
Teaching math, first at Clement Junior High and eventually at Redlands High, was his main calling. Coaching X’s and O’s after school was as much a full-time gig as teaching those x’s and y’s during the day.
“I did,” he said, “want to be a head coach.”
Better to just coach. Head coaching was for someone else.
Not your typical assistant, either.
“A father figure to us all,” says Valencia, adding words like “mentor” and “teacher” and “icon.”
WHAT DID HE COACH?
A better question, said Walker, is what DIDN’T he coach?
Receivers. Some defensive backs. Freshman ball? Maybe some special teams. Worked like crazy, said Walker, “getting special teams ready.
“Every year,” said Walker, “in a big situation, we would hit a big return (on special teams).”
On the diamond, Havard coached catchers, helped with hitters, worked with base-runners, in charge of pickoff plays.
“Stopping the running game,” said Valencia.
Isn’t it curious that, in the 1980s, Havard, the ex-shortstop, had a hand in coaching MLB draft picks — all shortstops — David Renteria (Marlins), Ronnie Warner (Cardinals) and Ervan Wingate, Jr. (Dodgers) in successive years?
It’s probably not fair to try and list every player that Havard has had a hand in coaching. That list might stretch for awhile.
Current pro catcher Jacob Nottingham (Milwaukee Brewers) is a current ex-Terrier prize on display.
There aren’t many of those prizes. Redlands coaches, probably any sport, are better known for developing high school athletes. If a pro or college prospect comes out of it, so much the better.
A more-likely scenario would be a Terrier product getting a college opportunity via Redlands’ “Long Blue Line” process, be it Havard or anyone else’s project.
“I learned things about coaching, about how to play shortstop,” said ex-Terrier Kadyn Glass, who played both sports, “even everyday stuff that I use to this day.
“He has a way of getting his point across.”
Former Bulldog catcher Don Parnell calls Havard “the single most influential person in my baseball career.”
Parnell has spent a lifetime coaching mostly collegiate baseball.
MAKING THE GRADE
There have been plenty of high points, Havard said, from “the many successes the vast majority of young men have achieved during and after the seasons we spent together.”
Yes, he said, there were “a lot of low points also.”
If someone’s kid didn’t make the grade — either in class or on the field — chances are good that Havard made a bold attempt to educate, anyway.
“I’ve known him before I even got to high school,” said Glass, now coaching college baseball in Nebraska. “He’s a legend.”
“I could write a full page on his positive effect on young men,” said Parnell.
“A heck of a coach,” said Walker, “but a better person. No BS. He did it all and he did it well.”
There was one final chance to educate. On his former UofR field where he played and coached, Havard watched current Terrier catcher Martin Sanchez gun down enemy baserunner Robert Mattei in a key game against REV.
Afterward, Sanchez looked over toward the dugout, toward Havard. Their eyes met.
“Nice play,” said Havard.
Try asking him about a single game highlight. Or a play. Or a season.
Havard deferred. “I can’t single out a game or a play or a season.”
That win over REV bought an extra game, or more, in the playoffs. Just add it to those 46 years.