Coon Rapids’ strong tradition of baseball has hit another one out of the park.
Jerry Coe, Coon Rapids High School’s baseball coach for the past 20 years, will be inducted into the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in October.
Coe learned of his induction in a letter. He couldn’t quite believe the news and had to read the letter twice.
“I look at all the people who have been coaching longer than I have and who have more victories and I am with them,” Coe said of others who will also be inducted in October. “It’s an honor.”
Coe’s first memory of playing baseball was when he was four years old. Living in what is now Maplewood, there was a pasture near Coe’s home that hosted a bull. When the bull left, the neighborhood kids took over and “cut a little field to play on.”
When he was in fifth grade, Coe’s uncle, a teacher in North St. Paul, got him involved in a youth baseball program. He pitched throughout high school, graduating from North St. Paul High School in 1965.
But baseball isn’t Coe’s only love. Also a hockey player, Coe played for the River Falls State University – now the University of Wisconsin-River Falls – hockey team. Originally planning to major in physical education, Coe decided to major in geography and history. His sophomore year, Coe decided to be a teacher.
Coe began his 37-year teaching career at CRHS in 1972. A law and economics teacher, Coe coached girls’ soccer for four years and was an assistant hockey coach for 14 years.
With the retirement of longtime baseball coach Ken Sundstrom, coach Mike Semling leaving after one year and assistant coaches transferring to the newly opened Champlin-Park High School, Coe was asked to be the varsity baseball coach.
In his first year as the head coach, Coe’s team won the state tournament.
“I thought, ‘this is going to be easy, just throw the ball out there and let the kids play,’” Coe said. “It all came together that first year.”
Coe also fondly remembers the team’s unexpected state championship in 2008 when CRHS beat the top ranked team.
In all seriousness, Coe said he was in a position to do well because of the foundation Sundstrom built, the strong Coon Rapids National Little League program and the assistant coaches, which include Don Bright, who has coached at CRHS with Coe for 20 years.
“You can be a good coach, but you need talent,” Coe said. “This is a community that plays baseball. It’s been a great run for 50 years now.”
Still coaching after his retirement from the classroom in 2009, Coe said he enjoys teaching skills to players and the game itself.
“A lot of people say baseball is boring, I cannot understand that,” Coe said. “The better the competition the more difficult the game. Every pitch counts.
“It’s really rewarding to play in conference and state championships; there is a real sense of accomplishment. The program has been successful and I am just trying to continue that tradition.”
Kelley Scott, CRHS athletic director, said Coe is very deserving of this award.
“He would tell you that he isn’t special but I would disagree with that,” Scott said. “You won’t find too many coaches in any sport that have been around as long as Jerry has as a head coach.
“This consistency, along with Jerry’s assistant coach Don Bright, is why our program has continued to be so successful.”