Like members of all Redmond spring teams, Ridgeview baseball players have been practicing indoors while their playing field dries out from three feet of recent snow and temperatures slowly warm up.
At the same time, the Ravens are learning to play for a new coach — the fifth in four seasons for some seniors.
But under coach Dave Wales, they are hopeful Ridgeview baseball is headed in the right direction.
Wales started his college baseball career at Arizona State, where he played for College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Jim Brock. He was a teammate of future major league all-time and single-season home-run leader Barry Bonds,
“It was a whole list of who’s who from that team,” Wales said. “It was really just a great learning experience.”
He went on to play at Emporia State in Kansas, where his team reached the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
After college, Wales served as an assistant coach at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix for a year. He went on to a 30-year career in law enforcement, but always maintained time to coach youth baseball teams.
Coming back to the game
Wales worked as a special agent, starting in the late 1980s with U.S. Customs, before moving in the early 2000s under the umbrella of Homeland Security Investigations, part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Southern California. He said they investigated crimes like drug smuggling, human trafficking, gang issues and the high-tech export of sensitive equipment and materials.
After retiring from Homeland Security in 2015, Wales moved to Washington, D.C., where he oversaw Afghanistan reconstruction as a special agent in the Inspector General’s Office. He moved to Redmond a couple years later and is now general manager and vice president for De Leone Corp., which makes pressure-sensitive labels.
Wales applied for the Ridgeview job after hearing from a neighbor that the school was searching for a new baseball coach. Wales fondly remembered his brief coaching stint, when his team made the Arizona state playoffs for the first time, and wanted to get back in the game.
“I loved the opportunity to teach a game I truly loved and interact with high-school age boys,” he said. “It was a fantastic opportunity.”
Marc Horner, a former Redmond High baseball coach who now works in school district administration, coached the Ravens to a surprising 2018 play-in game appearance, finishing with a 5-11 Intermountain Conference and 9-17 overall record. That came a year after Jared Young coached Ridgeview to an 0-16 league record in his only year at the helm in 2017.
Horner coached 2018 on an interim basis when former coach Jake Branham was placed on administrative leave after being arrested on rape and sex abuse charges shortly before what was supposed to be his first season as Ridgeview head coach. Branham never coached a game with Ridgeview.
Wales welcomes the chance to bring some stability to the Ridgeview baseball program and is enthusiastic about the job.
“The fact that it’s close in proximity to where I live, the opportunity to work for a great athletic director in Kevin Bryant and the opportunity to build a program that will have a lasting impact on the community for years to come,” Wales said.
His first priority is to get students out and engaged in the game. That will take some time, since only 24 kids registered to play baseball, not enough to field a junior varsity team along with the varsity.
So far, the players have positive impression of the new coach.
“I think the coach has a lot of potential to make the team really good,” said Isiah Parker, a senior pitcher and outfielder. “I think the players have a lot of potential...As long as we’re able to keep him around, the program will continue to grow and be successful.”
Wales also looks to build character.
“It’s a great opportunity to help mold and teach some of these young men a little more about life and the choices they will be faced with, eventually,” he said. “I think 30 years in law enforcement helps lend itself in teaching and helping some of these young folks.”
With most of the first week of spring sports practice wiped out when school was canceled Feb. 25-28 and the baseball field buried under snow the following week, the Ravens have been preparing for the season in Ridgeview’s gymnasium.
“It’s kind of hard because we haven’t had the real experience of the field, but we’re working on what we’ve got and trying to include all the aspects of the game,” Parker said.
Fortunately for the Ravens, they were able to get some voluntary workouts in with several players starting in mid-January. Pitcher and catchers got two weeks of more formal work in starting Feb. 11.
Though the worst of the snow was two weeks earlier, the Ravens still had to postpone early games, including matchups this week with Mountain View and Summit. Wales said they plan to open the season with a doubleheader Saturday in Portland against Franklin.
Wales is trying to make the most of working indoors on baseball skills.
“We’re going to do as much work as we possibly can, but we’re still somewhat limited compared to being outside and being able to hit ground balls and fly balls and all that stuff,” he said.
Wales said the team will likely have seven seniors, seven sophomores and two juniors, along with a group of freshmen.
“We’ve got some returning experience on our team, we’ve got some very young players who have potential but just need to get out and be able to flourish,” Wales said.
Between the new coach and playing in the new-look IMC, without the Bend teams, senior outfielder and pitcher Blake Sheldon looks forward to the season.
“Our coach played at the D-I level, so he knows what he’s talking about,” he said.
Despite the small roster, Wales is “cautiously optimistic” about the team.
“To a person, they are some of the nicest young men I’ve encountered,” he said. “Their parents should be very proud of them and very proud of themselves for doing such a remarkable job with these young men.”
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmond spokesman.com