By Jeremy McDonald
CORVALLIS, Ore.– This time last year Ron Caligure was coaching the American Legion Single-A Santiam Senators of Stayton and the Senators were preparing for a post-season State run down at Crater High School’s Anhorn Field in Central Point, Oregon.
That team he coached that year, along with Greg Ferguson and Chris Brown went 16-10 and won the League Title over North Willamette Valley (North Marion HS) and West Linn before entering the playoffs down in Southern Oregon.
“Oh it was nice to get out there to coach those kids and the goal was to have a winning season. We did that. The next one was to get into the State Playoffs and we did that,” said Caligure. “Then we went down there and it was fun being in the State Playoffs you know.”
That recipe of success with Caligure, Ferguson and Brown worked to a perfection in JBO resulting in a 2012 State Championship to go with all the other success’ around the lower levels of baseball as Ferguson and Brown did all the behind-the-scene stuff and Caligure did the bulk of the coaching when The Three Musketeers comes together.
And the result was usually the same: Success and lots of it.
Being a hard-nose but fair coach, Caligure got his start with his father at Western Oregon University when it was called Oregon College of Education years-and-years ago, that’s where Caligure got his start as a coach.
Ever since then, with his coaching style and high expectations of his student-athlete’s around him, the Caligure-led squads always find a way to make it to the ‘second’/’third’-season that is the post-season in some form or another, something he admits is something special to do.
“The teams always been competitive, no matter what the score was, we were always competitive,” said Caligure. “I’ve taken baseball teams to State, Softball teams to State, Football teams to State. The only one’s I didn’t take to State were the Girls Basketball, but we always make it to Districts Playoffs…oh I coached girls basketball at Central High School and I took them to State.
“So you could say, all the sports I’ve coached, they’ve all been..got to State, kind of a good accomplishment.”
Now, with the age-old debate of how to approach coaching girls versus guys is endless and Caligure knows that, but he believes that his coaching ability in the hard-nose, but fair philosphy blends perfectly well wheither it’s boys or girls.
“As far as girls go, I didn’t treat them any different than the boys,” described Caligure. “If I hit hard groundballs to the boys, I did the same thing to the girls and most softball teams play the short–game.
“My girls never played the short game. I mean we just hit, hit and hit. We had some teams come up and ‘your the best hitting team we’ve seen’,” “So I didn’t treat the girls any differently than the boys. And the boys, didn’t take much from them. Pushed them as hard as I could and I told them:
“‘I might yell at you and scream at you. But I’ll still liked you. I’m not going to hold any grudges, I’m not going to hold anything against you, I still like you and I want to thank you for coming out to play and when I scream at you, just let it go in one ear and out the other because I get as frustrated just as you get frustrated’.”
Some of those Sanitam Senators appreciated the hard-nose but fairness that Caligure had as they wrapped up the season in Central Point July of 2016.
“It’s really been a huge advantage and a blessing because I have it with me all the time and he pushed me harder than any other kids, like he didn’t just…I wasn’t known as the coaches son or grandson or whatever,” said Salem Academy’s Greyson Hanowell, who played catcher and infield for the Senators last summer for his grandpa. “He pushed me a lot harder and with me always playing up, he always put me with the older kids so that was groom me into raising up to the ocassion with the older players and better players. So I think it’s been a major part of shaping me into the ballplayer I am today.”
“It was definitely a blessing because when I was young I never really realized how good of a coach he was until I got older and realized almost everything I’m teaching the younger kids is exactly what he would tell me to do,” said Ryan Brown, who also played with Hanowell on the JBO team that went to State. “And he has helped me because he holds me and Greyson to a higher standard which really helped me get to the next level over the other kids Bc he wanted me to be better than them..”
“I think Ron is a great coach who has been in the game a long time,” adds 2017 Scio-Graduate Caleb Clevenger, who was a outfielder and pitcher for the Senators in 2016. “He not only helped me develop my fundamentals, but my mental aspect of the game as well.”
“Ron was a great coach. He was very knowledgeable and all about the fundamentals. On the field he was a no non-sense kind of guy that was very approachable and supportive for the time,” said 2016 Gervais-Graduate, Brandon Gieselman who was the ace of that Senator staff in 2016. “I’m remember times when I would see something while I was pitching and tell him and what I saw and he would make the adjustment . Afterwards he would be very appreciative of that.”
As he sits in the sun at Goss Stadium nearly a year after his last game, watching and supporting his grandson in Hanowell playing with the Northwest Futures, to say he doesn’t miss being on that other side of that netting would be an understatement.
He would talk to his dad, now pushing into his 90s and Chris Brown about how Hanowell and Ryan Brown could improve upon like they did Sunday night as if they were all still coaching the kids.
Memories, there’s a ton. Back-to-back-to-back homeruns with Donovan Stanley, Ryan Brown and Hanowell to start.
Then there was the Willamina Bulldog Softball team in 2002 that went all the way to the Semi-Finals before falling to Gold Beach 4-2.
“We got to the Semi-finals, there were like four-five seniors on the team and when the last game was over, I got a picture of them, the three girls walking off and you just see their numbers and that’s just kind of a nice photograph to remember them by,” said Caligure. “And at the end of the season, we had awards thing and, like I said, it brought tears to my eyes that day that they were leaving.”
And finally. Not to mention Noah Ferguson, currently at South Salem, celebrating the last out during the JBO season that won it all.
“Noah was in there pitching and he gets the last out and he comes out running off the field and jumping like this (with his arms in the air) until someone grabs ahold of him and give him a big hug. That was really fun seeing Noah come in and close it out. We always called him Mariano Rivera, the Yankees Closer and whenever he got into trouble I would go out there and say, ‘Hey Mario, just throw strikes. Let them hit the ball up. You can do this. You can do this’ and he always did.”
Ferguson once again pitched for his old JBO coach a few years later as part of the Senators and was a second baseman for Santiam that year.
But as the Summer of 2017 comes to an end, Caligure will enjoy what is left of baseball season before it’s all said and done.