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MY TURN • Sports – Retired Lakeland High baseball coach Jason Bradbury reflects on 20 seasons at helm of Hawks

Editor’s note: Shortly after the season, Jason Bradbury retired from coaching baseball after 20 season as head coach of the Lakeland Hawks.
Reached for comment then by the Press, Bradbury said he was “not quite ready to go into all the details yet.”
Earlier this week, Bradbury shared his thoughts in an email to The Press.
“I’ve been getting quite a few people asking questions ever since the article went out last week about Al Bevacqua being named the new head coach,” Bradbury wrote. “As you can imagine, the word and rumors spread like wildfire.”
The following are questions and answers from Bradbury:
What led to the decision to step down?
“Stepping down from coaching baseball was a very difficult decision for me. I’ve been coaching Lakeland Baseball for the past 22 years and the head coach for 20. When you coach that long, it becomes a part of you, so it was a very hard decision to make. I’m very proud of the program I have built at Lakeland. The program has been one of the strongest boys sports programs at Lakeland High School since we had to bump up to the 4A level (in 2004). However, in the last few years we haven’t accomplished the goals that I would have liked to have seen. One of the things I have learned over the many years of coaching was that I definitely hate losing more than I like winning. When the losses start to become consistent, you can’t help but take it personally and start to wonder and reflect about everything. So, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that maybe it was the right time to step away and give someone else the reins. Perhaps the next coach can spark a new energy and get back to the winning ways that I have been so accustomed to. I certainly hope so. I have always been proud of Lakeland Baseball.”
What part of coaching are you gonna miss?
“I am definitely going to miss the players and the relationships that I have built with them and their parents over the years. Some of those individuals have become my closest friends, even to this day. I’m also going to miss working with my coaches. I’ve always said that one of the things that makes a great program is that there is very minimal turnover within the coaching staff at the varsity level. All of my coaches have been with me for 15-plus years, and we have all become really close with each other and our families. I’m going to miss that camaraderie, the ups, the downs, and just being together at the ballpark. Thank you to those coaches, Jeremy Way, Jim Skidmore (Skid), Ken Busch and all the other coaches that have helped me out along the way. I’m also going to miss coaching with my son, Dylan. It was such an honor coaching him throughout his childhood, watching him grow, and then coaching him at the highest level of high school baseball. After he graduated college, I had the opportunity to hire him as part of my coaching staff. It has been awesome watching him instill into his players the same fundamentals and techniques that he learned from me and all his other coaches. I absolutely loved having him around the ballpark with me. All my coaches are my closest friends, and I’m confident that even after leaving the program, we will continue our friendships. Finally, I’m going to miss the relationships I’ve built with the umpires over the years. Jerry Wicks, Jerry Folger, Chad Chittenden, Brian Rounds, Josh Behrens, Torben Begines, Frank Garcia, and many more have become good friends of mine. I always looked forward to having them come down and ump the games. We’ve been in this thing together for a long time, and they are some of the greatest people on earth, even when the calls sometimes didn’t go my way!”
What will the future look like since you’re not coaching anymore?
“The future is definitely going to be different since I’m not coaching. I’ve been a coach in both football and baseball at the high school for a combined 25 years, my whole career. It’s weird to think about. I do know one thing, however. My wife and kids are super excited to have more time with me now, and we have already planned a spring break trip to Cabo. I have never been able to do anything other than baseball during spring break since I’ve become a teacher, so it will be really nice to finally get a chance to do something with my wife. She is very excited about that. Coaching is a huge sacrifice. Though I have loved every second of it, it definitely takes away from family time. It will be nice to start focusing on that a lot more.
What is your favorite moment coaching Lakeland baseball?
“There are so many great memories that it’s hard to single it down to just one or two. If I had to pick one, it would probably be being able to watch my son Dylan break the all-time single season and career doubles record at Lakeland High School. It was so much fun watching him get close to those numbers and then persevere through it. I’ll never forget both of those record-breaking hits. I was a very proud dad and coach.
“Some of the other accolades that I’m the most proud of are the fact that my program at Lakeland was the first to go to state after moving up to 4A, and we had a great showing down there that year as well. We brought home the fourth-place trophy. Then in 2014, we were also the first program at Lakeland High School to reach a (4A) state championship game. We came up short in that game but brought home the first 4A second-place trophy to our high school. I’m very proud of that team. The semifinal game (vs. Skyview of Nampa) was probably the most exciting game I have ever been a part of in any sport. We were down by six runs after the first inning, but they never gave up and kept competing. They racked up a total of 22 team hits and had some miraculous plays on defense as well as some great pitching to close out the game. It was an awesome experience. I will never forget it.”
What do you think about someone else taking over your program?
“If I’m 100% honest, I think it’s going to be hard at first. Driving by the ballpark has a whole new meaning for me now and sometimes pulls on the heart strings. The baseball program and field have been mine for the last 20 years. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make the field and program what it is today, and I’ve put a lot of heart and soul into it. Not being a part that anymore will definitely be tough, but I feel very confident and proud of the fact that I will be leaving the new head coach with a great field to play on. I feel it’s one of the nicest ballparks in the north. Leaving the program to Al Bevacqua also makes it a little easier for me. Al and I are really good friends and have been for quite a while. After my longtime assistant and good friend Terry Gorton passed away in my early years of coaching, I needed someone to come in and try to fill those shoes, someone who I trusted and knew had the same coaching philosophies as I did. Al stepped into that role for me beautifully and helped make that transition much easier. I know he’s going to do a great job as head coach, and I wish him the best.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“I would like to thank all of my players that I have coached over the years, my wife and family for all their support throughout my coaching tenure, as well as all the coaches I have worked with. I am very proud of the program I developed in the 21 years of being head coach. We still have a winning record in both the league and districts over our 4A rivals, Sandpoint and Moscow. I am also very proud of the 5A wins we have tallied in the years since moving up to 4A. We are in a tough league with those four 5A schools, but I’ve never shied away from playing them. Instead, I always welcomed the challenge, and am proud of my record against all of them except Lewiston. Back in the day, that team could not be beat, and it was always very difficult to come out on top. Nonetheless, I have always been one that would rather play up a classification than down. Playing down generally does not help your team get any better. It’s knowing what you have to rise to in order to compete to your best ability that will put your team over the top. It takes grit and determination that you don’t get by constantly competing against lower classifications.
“Lastly, I want to thank Will Havercroft for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to be the head coach back in 2004. I want to thank Terry Kiefer for always modeling what it took to be a great head coach. I was an assistant football coach under Terry at the high school for my first eight years at Lakeland, and it was some of the best years of my life. I learned so much. I’d also like to thank Mike Bayley and Lee Libera for showing me what it takes to prepare and coach the players to be the best they can be, as well as Curt Carr for all his support through the years. Lastly, I’d like to thank Ed O’Hara for being a friend and teaching me what it takes to create and maintain a beautiful baseball field. All of these men are very near and dear to my heart, and I will forever be grateful.”

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