When Levi Lacey first arrived in Everett in 2001 he was a wet-behind-the-ears 25-year-old coming straight from playing independent league baseball, and he was tasked with resurrecting an Everett Community College program that had lain dormant for two decades.
Now after 17 seasons Lacey is departing, but he leaves behind a Trojans program he built into one of the strongest in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
The longtime Everett CC baseball coach, whose accomplishments include guiding the Trojans to the 2013 NWAC championship, is leaving the program to become a scout with the Texas Rangers organization, the school announced Thursday.
“The situation was right when the opportunity came about,” said Lacey, reached in Peoria, Arizona, where he was already hard at work scouting at the Arizona Senior Fall Classic. “For me timing-wise it was right. I love Trojan baseball, that’s never going to change. But it was time for me to spread my wings.”
When Lacey was hired by Everett in 2001 he was truly working from scratch, as the Trojans hadn’t fielded a baseball team since 1982. His first season Everett played as a club team before rejoining NWAC in 2002. In his 16 seasons in NWAC Lacey’s teams went 474-238, winning North Region titles in 2005, 2013, 2016 and 2017. His 2013 team won the NWAC championship, while the Trojans finished as NWAC runners-up each of the past two seasons.
Lacey also had great success advancing players to higher levels, including the professional ranks. Lacey had 10 players selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, highlighted by three players being taken in the first eight rounds in 2005 — pitcher Zach Simons in the second round by the Colorado Rockies, outfielder Aaron Cunningham in the sixth round by the Chicago White Sox and pitcher J.T. Zink in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox. Four of his former players — Cunningham and pitchers Mason Tobin, Stephen Fife and Keone Kela — have played the majors.
“It’s a tremendous loss in terms of what Levi’s done for the Everett baseball program,” Everett CC athletic director Garet Studer said. “From taking over when the program had been on hiatus since the 1980s, to bringing it back in 2002 in a really tough North Division when Bellevue and Edmonds were at the peak of their power. The type of dedication and passion Levi has for baseball and the overall development of students, that’s not easy to replace.
“We appreciate everything he’s done for the program,” Studer added. “We know it was a difficult decision for him. Anything you’ve been a part of for 17 years is not easy to walk away from. But we wish him all the best.”
Lacey’s role with the Rangers will be as a Four Corners area scout, meaning he’ll be responsible for scouting amateur players in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Lacey was first approached by people he knew in the Texas organization in August about the possibility of joining the Rangers.
Lacey had opportunities to move into coaching at the NCAA Division I and II levels during his time with Everett CC, but turned them all down. However, a chance with a major-league organization was too good to pass up.
“I always wanted the opportunity to scout,” Lacey said. “I think my ability to scout is one of the reasons why the (Everett CC) program turned into what it did.
“Leaving is difficult because this is my baby,” Lacey added. “But I really do feel the program is at the point where it’s established and settled. We’ve consistently shown we’re able to compete at the highest level, and it’s set up where Trojans from the past are around the program and the culture is right. It’s hard, but I also felt it was the right time for me to do my thing.”
One of those former Trojans is taking over the program on an interim basis. JoJo Howie, who was a pitcher on Everett’s 2013 NWAC championship team and served as an assistant coach under Lacey the past two seasons, will coach the team through the 2018 season. When the season is over the Trojans will consider whether to hire Howie on a full-time basis.
“We expect great things from him,” Studer said of Howie. “He’s a Trojan, both as a player and the last two years as an assistant coach. He’s been Levi’s right-hand man the last two years when we went to the NWAC championship game. He’s on board with putting together a winning team on the field, but also having the guys excel in the classroom and as citizens. He believes in the total program the way Levi did. We’re excited to have someone like JoJo here in place to make a seamless transition — well, as seamless as it can be given the loss of a coach like Levi.”