CORVALLIS, Ore. — Mitch Canham, a 2003 graduate of Lake Stevens High School and The Herald’s 2007 Man of the Year in Sports, was hired Thursday as the baseball coach at Oregon State University, according to an athletic department release.
Canham captained the Beavers to College World Series championships in 2006 and 2007, and will return to lead his alma mater after rapidly rising through the Seattle Mariners minor league system as a manager.
Canham, who led the Arkansas Travelers — the Mariners’ Double-A Texas League affiliate — to a first-half title, will leave that post to return to Corvallis.
Pat Bailey served as Oregon State’s interim head coach for the 2019 season after longtime coach Pat Casey stepped aside after winning the Beavers’ third national championship in 2018.
Bailey, Oregon State pitching coach Nate Yeskie and Canham were the three candidates to replace Casey on a full-time basis. Casey informed Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes on June 4 that he would not be returning to the school.
“What an incredible day and a dream come true,” Canham said in the release. “Since stepping on the OSU campus in the summer of 2002, I felt a part of the Beaver family. The baseball program, Corvallis community, athletic department, faculty, donors, and fans have been a huge part in transforming my life and helping me become the man I am today.”
“I am eager to get back to Oregon State University and do our family of Beaver Nation proud. Coach Casey and everyone who has been involved over the years have created such a wonderful and life-changing program, and I look forward to not only continuing in this fine tradition, but helping the program grow even more. I want to thank Scott Barnes, the selection committee, and President Ray for this opportunity to lead the men of Oregon State’s baseball program.”
“I am also forever grateful to the Seattle Mariners and a great mentor in Andy McKay. He and the Mariners gave me the opportunity to learn while coaching their players.”
McKay acknowledged Canham’s hiring by Oregon State in a statement: “We couldn’t be happier for Mitch and his family. Oregon State has made a great hire and we look forward to seeing Mitch lead the Beavers and represent the Pacific Northwest and his alma mater in the Division 1 level. Our loss is definitely OSU’s gain.”
Following his Oregon State career, Canham was selected in the supplemental first round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres with the 57th overall selection. He played nine seasons of minor-league baseball for five organizations, reaching the Triple-A level before retiring in 2015.
That December, the Mariners hired Canham to manage their full-season Single-A affiliate in Clinton, Iowa. In his managerial debut, he led the club to 86 wins and the Midwest League playoffs.
A promotion to Modesto in the California League brought more success, as Canham won the league title in 2017, winning Manager of the Year honors in the process. He returned to Modesto for the 2018 season before moving up to mentor the Mariners’ top prospects in Arkansas this summer.
Off the field, Canham founded Base By Pros with former Jackson High School and University of Washington standout Brent Lillibridge in 2015. Base by Pros is an organization that provides instruction and mentoring to young athletes.
Canham seemed ticketed for a big-league dugout, but he chose to lead Oregon State, already the unlikeliest of national baseball powerhouses, into a new era.