SNOHOMISH — Three years ago, Kim Hammons thought he was ready to call it a career.
So the longtime Snohomish High School baseball coach wrote his letter of resignation and headed to athletic director Mark Perry’s office. Yet when he arrived, Hammons couldn’t bring himself to take the final few steps.
“I went to go through the door and I couldn’t,” Hammons said. “I couldn’t do it. So I took a couple steps back and said, ‘OK, I can do this.’ I went up to the door again and, nope, couldn’t go through. I left (and thought), ‘Well, looks like I’m coaching another year.’”
Hammons ended up sticking around for several more years. But now, after 25 seasons as head coach at his alma mater, the longtime Panthers skipper is retiring.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” said Hammons, who served as the Everett High School head coach for one season in 1978 before later taking over the Snohomish program in 1993.
“It’s my alma mater, so it was very fun to come back, coach the Snohomish kids, go through a lot of really good seasons and have an opportunity to coach virtually all kinds of teams — last-place teams, middle-of-the-road teams and then some very successful teams as well.”
Hammons posted a career record of 385-209 (.648 winning percentage), which places him among the winningest high-school baseball coaches in state history. He guided the Panthers to seven district titles and 10 state-tournament appearances, including state championships in 1998 and 2008, as well as a runner-up finish in 2007.
“I think what has made our teams so successful is that they have been so unselfish and so team-oriented,” Hammons said. “It’s been pretty incredible to watch that build throughout the years. That’s one of the great things about being at Snohomish — great kids.”
Hammons, who played four seasons of collegiate baseball at Central Washington University, also coached American Legion ball in the summer for more than three decades and taught physical education in Edmonds School District for 25 years.
Known to many as “Skip,” Hammons was a 2007 inductee into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.
“In terms of his legacy and the things that he’s done for Snohomish High School baseball, you couldn’t pick a better, more passionate person,” Perry said. “Just a phenomenal career.”
Perry said one of Hammons’ greatest strengths was his knack for maximizing the talent of his teams.
“(He had the) ability to get the most out of his team, whatever that was — finding that third pitcher, finding that ninth batter, finding that kid who could fill a hole in the infield,” Perry said. “He got the most out of every kid.
“You could look at some of the teams that he moved on into the postseason throughout the years and say, ‘Gosh, they don’t even have a stud pitcher,’” Perry added. “And yet, they could make it. But then he also had times when he had the studs, and he always got the most out of them.”
Among the most notable standouts who came through Hammons’ program were Adam Eaton and Aaron West. Eaton was drafted out of high school with the 11th overall pick in the 1996 Major League Baseball draft and pitched 10 seasons in the major leagues. West, a member of the 2008 state championship team, currently is pitching in the Houston Astros organization for Triple-A affiliate Fresno.
“Just listening to him and working with him, it’s amazing how much he made myself and all of my teammates better,” West said of Hammons. “Looking back, he was definitely one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He was outstanding, just the way he worked with the guys and knew the game.”
After taking over as head coach, Hammons spearheaded significant renovations to the Snohomish baseball field. And over the years, he became known for the countless hours he devoted to keeping it in top-notch condition.
“You could be out there on any given day at 8 o’clock in the morning or 2:30 in the afternoon, and Coach’s green pickup would be parked there,” Perry said. “He’d be out there mowing the grass, watering the infield, working on the pitcher’s mound, working on home plate, working on one of the dugouts — whatever it was.
“This became his second work. Everything was manicured and perfect all the time because of his perfection on this field.”
Hammons estimates he spent at least 20 hours per week grooming the field.
“I’m luckily still married,” Hammons said with a laugh.
Baseball was a family affair for Hammons, whose wife, Sherri, served as the team’s official scorekeeper for 25 years. Hammons also coached sons Jake and Nick at Snohomish, and both later came back to coach in the program.
Perry said the search has begun for Hammons’ replacement. But as West points out, the new coach will have big shoes to fill.
“(Hammons) is Snohomish baseball,” West said. “It’s going to be very, very tough to replace him. … He put Snohomish baseball on the map.
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” West added. “That’s for sure.”