New Face, New Year

By Jeremy McDonald

SALEM, Ore.–  As the first week of their season enters its twilight, Thursday’s practice was just one of few for new Withnell Dodgers Head Coach Justin Hoffman.

The North Salem and Dodger alum was an assistant coach under former Head Coach Jason Searle this time last season before assuming the Head Coaching job this season, and the Salem-local turned Head Coach just looks as comfortable as he was under Vikings Head Coach Chris Lee and under Searle last summer.

“It’s definitely a different angle from being the Head Guy to being a assistant for so long, it’s definitely a different dynamic but it’s definitely different,” said Hoffman. “The anxiety level kind of goes up a little bit, but once the ball is put into play and we’re scrimmaging and stuff it all just kind of goes away and I just jump right back into my coaching mindset and get after it.”

Around the Willamette University baseball field, while Hoffman was on the third baseline coaching the intrasquad scrimmage during the last day of try-outs, some familiar faces were floating around.

Coach Doran was in the back helping with batting while Mike Godfrey sat on a bin looking at pitchers and giving out signals to the catchers as if it was an actual game as the catchers had to call their own balls-and-strikes and call them out as both were the heavy hitters in the coaching staff.

“First guy I kind of wanted to call when I got the job and get him on my staff as quick as possible.  The guy’s been around baseball for over 35 years,” said Hoffman on Godfrey.  “Coach Doran, I could talk to you for hours about all the accolades and things he’s accomplished as a coach and he’s just another stand-up guy and a great hitting coach for us.”

As for the fresh faces on staff, Hoffman likes the idea of former-Dodgers coming back to help out the team in anyway like he has with his younger brother James ‘Jamie’ Hoffman and Noah Boatwright returning as coaches for Withnell this season.  Boatwright was just playing on the Dodgers last summer himself.

Some familiar faces floating around on the field itself, trying out for the 2018 Dodger squad:  North Salem’s Cameron Kallhoff, Chemeketa Community College’s Justin Culpepper, Linfield’s Tanner Sorenson and Western Mennonite’s Sean Webster to name a few.

But a few fresh faces were out as well include:

South Salem’s Noah Ferguson, Western Mennonite’s Rylan Webster and North Salem’s Reyes Luna looking to break onto the team for the season ahead.

Rylan Webster, who saw time on the bump pitching and behind the dish catching, had some nerves as the 15-year-old Pioneer Freshman was trying to impress not just Hoffman and his staff but the older guys around him.

“I don’t know, coming from 2A baseball to all of these big guys…there’s a little difference,” said Webster.  “You kind of thinking about it a little bit but trying not to think about it too much.  I mean epically first-year High School, your seeing older guys also.  But it keeps going up in competition, it gets higher-and-higher, you just got to step up.”

He did as Webster joins his brother Sean on the team this season, but being 15 to Sean’s 16 when he joined the team, there may be some choice words tossed around bragging at dinner Thursday night.

“I’ll get my word in,” smiled Rylan Webster about one-upping his older brother.

Luna, who finished up his High School playing career at North Salem, tried out for Withnell for the first time where his teammate from the past three years in Kallhoff was on the team last season as the Viking-graduate made the team this summer.

“It’s pretty cool I’m looking forward to the Summer and I’m ready to kick some ass,” smiled Luna on making the team.  “I was taught to come out here and play my own game and the rest will take care of itself, so pretty much focus up on what I do and the rest will come the way I want it and always work hard.”

Photos By Jeremy McDonald

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