Before the first pitch is thrown in the first game of Kamiak High School’s 2008 baseball season, something more important will happen. The home ballfield will get a new name — Geiger Field — in honor of a man who’d been assistant baseball coach since Kamiak began.
Jim Geiger was that man, that coach.
“He was a coaching friend, but man, he was also a friend,” Steve Merkley, head baseball coach at Kamiak, said earlier this month at a crowded memorial gathering in the high school gym.
Merkley said Friday that the field will be dedicated to Geiger on March 7, before the varsity team’s 3:30 p.m. game against Seattle’s Lakeside School.
James Geiger of Mukilteo died Dec. 19 after suffering complications from surgery. He was 57.
With his wife, Toni, he owned and operated Harbour Pointe Jewelers.
“I think he played harder than he worked,” said his daughter, Kelli Geiger, 33. “I’m very honored to be his daughter,” she added.
His son Christopher Geiger, 30, played on teams coached by his father from the time he was a 4-year-old in Seattle’s Ballard area.
After the family moved to Mukilteo in 1984, Jim Geiger became an institution in the area’s youth sports scene. He coached baseball for Mukilteo Little League and basketball for the Mukilteo Boys &Girls Club. In the summer, he coached select baseball teams the Seattle Arsenal and Seattle Stars.
Along with his children and his wife of 37 years, Geiger is survived by his father, Ted, and many relatives and close friends.
One of them, Wally Nagel, spoke of his “brotherly” friend at the Kamiak gathering, where former players, Geiger’s teammates from recreational softball, golf buddies and customers filled the bleachers.
“He was a teammate, a coach, a local businessman and sports fan. He played many sports — golf being the least of them,” Nagel joked. Like others in the crowd, Nagel wore a Hawaiian-style shirt on a day when snow was falling, a nod to his friend’s preference for casual shirts, shorts and loafers without socks.
“We traveled together, gambled together and shared life events. He bragged about his children and bragged about his players,” Nagel said.
Born June 30, 1950, Jim Geiger grew up in Seattle’s Wallingford area and graduated from Bishop Blanchet High School. He and Toni met at Shoreline Community College, where Geiger earned his associate degree in 1970. He served six years in the Army Reserves.
In 1973, the couple opened Jim’s Rockhound Supply, which later became World of Gems. In 1988, Geiger earned a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America, and the next year opened Harbour Point Jewelers.
Don Robinson met Geiger more than 30 years ago playing softball. They built homes near each other in Mukilteo’s Chennault Beach area, and their children grew up together. Together, they’d travel to tournaments in a 22-foot motor home. “The youngest had to sleep in the bathtub,” said Robinson, who recalled Seahawks games and trips to Hawaii with his friend.
“He had a great sense of humor,” Robinson said.
Chris Geiger played baseball for Kamiak while his father was assistant coach.
“I’ll never forget the first game at Kamiak. It was 1994, the school’s inaugural baseball game. I was the first pitcher. We played Mariner, and didn’t win. When we came off the field, with everybody around, he said he was so proud,” Chris said.
His dad didn’t play favorites, he said. “He was the first to pull me out. His toughness came when we left the field. My game didn’t end when everybody else’s did. He wanted to talk about it,” said Chris, who’ll help Merkley in the upcoming season, taking his father’s place as assistant coach. “He was a wonderful father. He always stressed he wanted me to have fun,” he said.
Kelli Geiger has great memories of her dad traveling with her seventh- and eighth-grade classes from Olympic View Middle School on trips to Washington, D.C., and New York City. “He was always there. We had a good time,” she said.
Terri Christensen, married to Jim Geiger’s nephew Brian, remembered “how much he loved children.”
At family gatherings, she said, “he’d be down on the floor putting the train together. He was there for every birthday, every Christmas. If Jim considered you his friend, be honored.”
Geiger had a knack for friendship, his wife said.
“He always remembered every single person. I don’t have that kind of memory,” Toni Geiger said. “Customers, kids he coached, parents of kids he coached, all his classmates, he remembered them all.”
A scholarship for Kamiak athletes is being established in Geiger’s name. Donations to the Jim Geiger Scholarship Fund may be made at any Cascade Bank.
Reporter Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or email@example.com.