By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—Walking into the classroom of Chris Lee, the North Salem High School Head Baseball Coach, is recently committed Western Oregon University Wolves catcher Cole Hamilton.
Sitting in the classroom, the five-foot-eight senior catcher describes the reasoning behind his verbal commitment to the NCAA Division-II school for baseball.
“(It’s) close to home,” described Hamilton on his verbal commitment. “My brother’s an alumnus of Western Oregon, he played baseball there too. My parents can see me play and family and friends.”
Behind the drive of the love of the game, Hamilton hopes to win a National Championship with the Wolves at the NCAA Division-II level while pursuing a professional career.
“My whole life I wanted to be better than my brothers and I’m slowly getting there hopefully,” Hamilton said of his drive for the game. “I just want to be that guy who people remember (being) ‘Oh he’s a good guy, cool guy and he made it there’. I just want to be remembered for making it there.”
Western Oregon Head Baseball Coach Kellen Walker described what intrigued them to Hamilton and how he’ll continue the dominance that the Wolves had in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“Cole is a quality defender behind the plate who receives well and is an exceptional catch and throw guy,” said Walker. “He is a competitive left handed bat that we feel will continue to develop and be able to help us out right away.”
The senior bolsters a 3.27 Grade-Point-Average is looking to major in Nursing as it fits right in with his personality of helping others.
“I like working with people and the medical field,” said Hamilton. “I wanted to be a dentist but I didn’t want to go to school for another eight years after high school. So I thought I’d be a nurse and help people, talk to people every day and make people’s day’s better.”
Hamilton knows the importance of being a student-athlete from the lessons of his parents and the example of his brother Tanner.
“My whole life my parents were telling me that my GPA is going to get me somewhere and if I don’t have a good Grade-point-average than I won’t be able to play,” said Hamilton.
“For instance, my brother Tanner, he’s a good baseball player and didn’t have the grades to go anywhere. He ended up going to Chemeketa (Community College) and hated it. So it’s all about GPA. What coach Lee has always said, ‘it’s student-athlete for a reason’. You’re a student before a athlete.
Viking’s Head Baseball Coach, Chris Lee added that he tells his players that sports are fun and games, but it will end one day.
“We’ve try to promote in our program that you got the rest of your life after your sport is done,” said Lee. “You got to make sure that you’re set up to be able to do something to do for the rest of those days.”
Focusing on Senior Season
Now that his mind is set on being a Western Oregon University Wolves baseball player, Hamilton is now turning his focus on his senior season.
But nothing has really changed since his decision; he still bleeds black and red.
A Viking spirit that started when Hamilton was four-, five-year old when he was a bat boy for North Salem, through playing with his brother his freshman year to the end of his final season.
Hamilton will never turn his back on his brothers.
“I’ve never really turned away from it honestly,” he said. “It’s just the next step is now going to happen. It’s real now, I’m going somewhere, I’m going to be playing college baseball.
“I’m not going to say, ‘Screw North Salem, I play for Western Oregon now’. It’s not that, it’s now I want to win a state title here. I mean my brothers, we battle on the field together. They’re my brothers, nothing is going to change that.”
Lee speaks of Hamilton’s leadership and his dedication to his team.
“Cole is very conscientious of other people,” said Lee. “I think that shows in his choice of his degree that he wants to pursue, it’s all about helping others.
“He’s always wanted to help perform well in his own right, but he also always make others look good. He’s a catcher, he does that as a catcher; his whole job is to make the pitcher look good.”
The Viking Spirit is what drives Hamilton as he hopes to help his brothers win an OSAA 6A State Championship before he graduates in June.
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!