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050910 brent hathaway
Missoula Mavericks manager Brent Hathaway coaches Steven DeYoung between innings recently at Lindborg-Cregg Field. Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Brent Hathaway is in his 20th season managing the Class AA Missoula Mavericks American Legion baseball team.

The math teacher at Hellgate Middle School played at the University of Idaho and Texas-El Paso before finding an interest in coaching. In his 20 years at the helm of the AA Mavs, Hathaway's teams have won four state championships.

Recently he discussed his love of coaching and the game of baseball itself.

Q. At what age did you discover baseball?

A. You know, I just know my mother tells the story that I was like 7 or so and I came home from my first-ever Little League practice and I told her I was going to be a pitcher.

When I was younger football was another big love. I played quarterback but I didn't feel like I had the size to make it to the next level.

Q. What about the game keeps you interested in coaching?

A. I think the biggest thing is first, the love of the game, which increases more and more each year, and second is the enjoyment I take from working with the young men in my program. They're all awesome young adults and I'm just really privileged to work with them on a yearly basis.

Q. What inspired you to coach?

A. When I finished playing in Texas they asked me if I was willing to stick around as a graduate assistant and coach with them. That got me thinking, but I was in Texas and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

I came back to Idaho and was finishing my degree in civil engineering. It hit me like a ton of bricks while sitting around with a buddy working on a paper about thermo dynamics, or something like that, and I remember thinking that this is the last thing I want to do the rest of my life.

I made a decision at that very moment to get back into baseball and the way to do it was coaching. So I switched my major to education and 25 years later I'm still at it.

Q. Is your coaching style borrowed from someone else or is it your own?

A. For one, this is the way the game should be played. I respect the game of baseball and I want my team to model it, see it and play it the right way.

I've had many influences in the game and coaches I was privileged to play for. That includes my high school and Legion coach, who was one of the most knowledgeable baseball guys around.

Another is Coach Jim Lawler, who I played for in college, and am still in touch with. He's just a fine gentleman. My first year in El Paso, it was my first Thanksgiving away from home and we're all about as homesick as we could be and he brought us to his home and had us over with his family for Thanksgiving dinner. That kind of treatment stuck with me.

Q. What's the best part of coaching boys this age?

A. There's a lot of good things about coaching at this level. The kids are still open to coaching and suggestions. They don't know everything yet, not all of them anyway.

I like the aspect of not going out and recruiting players, you get what's handed to you in the community and you see what you can do with what you have.

The college game was too busy for me. As far as the baseball itself, it's awesome. But I wouldn't like the recruiting part and being on the road recruiting players. I like the idea of it being a community game.

Q. Do you have any aspirations of coaching at a higher level?

A. Absolutely none whatsoever.

Q. State titles were common for the Mavericks in the 1990s. Do you feel any pressure to produce another state championship team?

A. I don't. The hardest thing about getting to the top is staying there.

Our program year in and year out is always competing. We've won four state titles and played for seven, most recent was in 2006. It's tough to win it all the time. You need a little luck, the right bounces and the right matchups.

As long as we're competitive and playing the right way we'll get our share. Sure there's been a drought over a 10-year span, but some awfully good pro and college teams never win a championship.

As long as these guys enjoy it and have shot to win it, I'm happy.

Q. Does this team have a chance to contend for a state championship and, if so, what will it take to win it?

A. These guys definitely have the athletic talent to compete. There's no doubt in my mind that if they're willing to work and continue to improve, and that is truly their goal, they have a good, if not better shot than a lot of teams in the state.

Q. When do you see yourself handing over the reins of the AA Mavericks?

A. Hell, I can't live forever. So definitely some place down the line there's going to be someone else in that coaching box at third. But I have no plans of giving it up any time soon.

 

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