It’s a seat money can’t buy. When Skyler Jump rocks back in his windup and lets loose with another fastball, catching the corner for another strike, his dad has a unique perspective. At the same moment, Steve Jump, as coach of the Hoquiam High School’s baseball team, is both dad and coach.
The shared father-son moment and challenge to win, is one that they will both reflect upon fondly. But for now it’s not without its own challenges.
“It’s enjoyable,” said Steve, who has been Hoquiam’s head baseball coach since 1999. “I think it’s difficult for some fathers. I’m blessed to have three kids that I guess like me around and tolerate me and listen.”
Skyler, an all-league pitcher who has been recruited by major colleges, admits having his dad as coach has had its challenges.
“Having my dad as my coach is kind of difficult at times,” Skyler said with a smile. “But we both get over it. We’ve grown up being around each other doing a lot of things our whole lives, as in family stuff and sports. He’s been my teacher, coach and dad my whole life. I like it.”
The alternative to having an involved dad – Steve has coached Skyler since he was in youth sports – is to have a distant, indifferent dad. Skyler is glad his dad took the involved, help you route.
“If he was never there for me, coaching me, telling me to get up and go run, or whatever, I would not be where I am today,” Skyler said before pitching in a recent 4-2 win against Tenino. “And I would not have the skill set or the mindset I have.”
Having the talent isn’t enough. Skyler knows you also have to have the work ethic and Steve has been that encouraging, push-yourself voice.
“He’s been there for me doing that,” Skyler said.
Having your dad coach you poses some basic challenges. Like what do you call him?
“I call him dad a lot on the baseball field,” Skyler said. “Treat him like a coach, but I call him dad.”
For this Grizzlies’ varsity baseball team that won a state championship last year and is headed back to the playoffs, the Jumps are not unique in the father-coach relationship. There are nine players on the varsity who had their dad coach them sometime in youth baseball.
Jack Skinner, Jared Steen and Zach Spradlin, starters on the Grizzlies baseball team, have had their dads coach them.
“Yeah, my dad taught me a lot of simple things like catching and hitting,” Spradlin said. “From what he says, he was a decent hitter. So, he’s always helped me do that. He’s always very encouraging.”
Besides the father-son connection, there’s another common bond that unites this team. Steve and two of his assistants – Zac Reynvaan, Tracy Pelan – all played baseball at Hoquiam. The Grizzlies roots go deep. At least four of his players on this year’s team, Steve went to school with their dads.
“A lot of them are second generation Hoquiam guys,” Steve said. “It’s fun.”
Reynvaan played for Steve on the 2001 Grizzly team that reached state.
“I like coaching,” Reynvaan said. “I like the competitive thing. It’s still a way for me to be competitive and be part of the game.”
Recently, Steve took Skyler up to the high school for some hitting practice. Just the two of them were on the field on a beautiful evening.
“It’s kind of like that therapeutic time,” Steve said. “Some people like fishing. It’s an activity we can do together. It is enjoyable. It’s enjoyable to see the progress and be able to talk about the little things.”
But Steve appreciates the team effort over the years in helping his son on the baseball field.
“I really appreciate other coaches’ input, trying to help my kids get better,” said Steve, who also has a younger daughter and son. “I really do think it’s important for kids whether you’re coaching your kids or not, to experience sports from other people. Because they can learn from anyone.”
Several years ago, when baseball practice came to end, the coaching wouldn’t stop for the Jumps. Steve continued to coach his son, to critic and give advance. Now, Steve has learned to be just dad at certain times.
“I enjoy sitting in the stands as much as I enjoy being out on the field,” Steve said. “All kids need a break from their parents. If you’re a parent and you’re coaching your kids and you spend the next half hour in the car drilling them with this and that, I think you’re going too far.”
“I think I fell victim to that early on, but I realized it wasn’t making him better or our relationship better,” Steve said. “So, I backed off. I learn my lesson with him and my younger kids.”
The dad-coach relationship is one that Skyler doesn’t regret.
“I’m glad he’s my coach,” Skyler said. “We’re always communicating with each other on how we can get better.”
It’s been a win-win relationship.