After 25 years, two state titles and seven district championships, the man who built the field the Panthers call home is hanging up his cleats.
It’s time for a different kind of yard work for Kim Hammons.
The longtime Snohomish baseball coach — who for 25 years could be seen mowing, trimming and manicuring the field at Snohomish High School — is calling it a career. The man affectionately known as “Skip” by players, coaches and essentially everyone has decided it’s time to work on the much smaller yard at his house.
“The field looked great,” Hammons said. “My yard looked like crap.”
It was Hammons who, along with fellow coach Barry Rodland, designed the Snohomish baseball field’s dimensions when the new field opened in the late 1980s, even securing old seats from the Kingdome for fans to sit in — making the Snohomish field literally the House That Skip Built.
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“Our high school and our community are built on legends and legendary people that have put a lifetime of work into kids, and he’s one of those main guys,” Snohomish athletic director Mark Perry said. “He’s in that group of legendary coaches that have come through Snohomish High School, and his legacy will speak to that.”
The stats speak for themselves: two state championships, seven district championships and a career record of 385-209. Perry couldn’t remember if Snohomish ever had a losing season under Hammons.
But for the 70-year-old Hammons, who graduated from Snohomish in 1964, it was always more about the players than the titles and the wins.
“Our team’s success, our victories, they’re just direct reflections of the friendships I’ve made with the players, the parents, the faculty over the last 25 years,” Hammons said. “That’s the great thing about being in this job: the kids. I kind of felt that by showing respect and showing interest in the kids, as people first, that they would come in and they would just be better players for you. And the victories did not seem all that important, but the victories did fall in line because they all had such great attitudes and were so team oriented and unselfish.
“I’ve had an entire lifetime of friends out of this group for the past 25 years. It really is pretty phenomenal to go through and do that. That’s tops on my list, more so than any victory.”
Hammons has coached several legendary Snohomish players, including 1996 first-round major league draft pick Adam Eaton. Other top talents include Aaron West, currently a closer for Houston’s Triple-A team in Fresno, Derek Jones, Eric Rodland and current Oregon State lefty Jake Mulholland.
But to Hammons it didn’t matter if you were the star or rarely got in the game.
“The biggest thing that jumps out to me is every year we’d have tryouts and toward the end of tryouts he’d start making cuts,” West said. “ … He’d get a little teary-eyed. He wanted everyone to be a part of the team. He knew he couldn’t do that, but that’s the kind of coach and person he was.”
Two other players stand out to Hammons: his sons Jake and Nick. Jake graduated from Snohomish in 2005, and Nick graduated two years later. Both played baseball for their father and came back to coach, Nick as a full-time assistant and Jake as a volunteer.
“We thought he’d be coaching forever,” Jake Hammons said. “He loves the game and loves impacting lives. We had great teams because he’s a great coach. … I had never coached before but he gave me, really, my first coaching opportunity. I just kind of followed his lead. I learned a lot from him.”
It was always a family affair for Hammons, whose daughter Katie was a cheerleader at Snohomish. His wife Sherri was the Panthers’ scorekeeper for 25 years.
She’s retiring too, and has already planned a Caribbean cruise for the pair, as well as trips to Hawaii and Belize.
“And then we’re going to be broke,” Hammons said with his patented chuckle. “And then I’m probably going to be looking for a job. So if you have any contacts.”
Much like his players, Hammons was always looking to improve. Mulholland, who graduated in 2016 and was just named a unanimous freshman All-American, stumbled upon his coach at the field one school day during lunch.
“I see a bunch of balls scattered around the field,” he said. “Skip was standing at home plate hitting fly balls up to himself trying to get them to land in front. He had trouble the day before at practice. He said he had been there for a couple of hours. It was because he wanted to be better.”
Bob Blair, the head coach of Snohomish’s crosstown rival Glacier Peak, coached with Hammons for the Panthers’ championship season in 2008. When he became the coach of the Grizzlies, Blair knew that Hammons — who is known for his competitive drive — would really kick it into high gear against Glacier Peak.
“He was a sly fox,” Blair said. “He was figuring out a way to pick you apart. He would get frustrated with me sometimes because, I think, when we played each other he would want to beat me more than I wanted to beat him and he would get mad at me. But we could always laugh.”
Hammons confirmed that he loved topping Glacier Peak.
“Bob and I are that close, where I can look at him and say, ‘I really enjoyed beating you,’ ” Hammons said. “It’s a rivalry. It’s a great rivalry. I really enjoyed beating Glacier Peak. And I’m sure they enjoyed beating us — the one time they did.”
Perry said the search is underway for a replacement, but he has no idea how to even go about trying to replace Skip.
“His passion for the game, for the community and for this high school will be hard to replace,” Perry said. “Just the amount of time that he’s put in, not only with kids, but in terms of maintenance of our facility. It’s just hard to fathom the number of hours he’s put in.”
The Panthers’ athletic director agrees that the Hammons house will now likely have the best-looking yard in Snohomish.