Longtime Issaquah baseball coach inducted into hall of fame
December 10, 2013
By David Hayes
Rob Reese knows there are some impressive names that make up the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Heck, he’s coached against many of them in his 20 years at the helm of Issaquah High School’s program. He just never figured he would join their ranks before he retired.
Reese was inducted into the hallowed halls Nov. 24.
“It was amazing, walking through the social hour and seeing all these coaches I’ve coached against for 15, 20 years,” Reese said. “It was a great group. To be welcomed by guys like that is pretty humbling.”
Even Reese’s résumé of accomplishments is sprinkled with other hall of famers. Born and raised in Bellevue and after graduating from Interlake High School in 1984, Reese played baseball for hall of fame coach Bob Albo and would later coach under him at Newport High School in 1993. Reese began his coaching career in 1988 with the Lakeside Recovery Centers American Legion team as an assistant under another hall of famer, Bob Levitin. Reese continues to coach the team to this day.
Issaquah hired Reese in 1994 and he has since compiled a career record of 333-157.
“The loyalty the school has shown me makes it a great place to coach,” Reese said. “From the school administration, the athletic director to the players’ families, all mean so much.”
Part of Reese’s success comes from that continuity in coaching the athletes receive up through the ranks. Many of Reese’s former players return to the school to join the coaching staff. Reese said all of the junior varsity coaches have been former players over the years. And his own staff has been there with him, almost from the beginning.
Hitting and pitching coach Fred Caponigro has been with Reese for 19 years. Outfielders coach Steve Sanelli, whose own son won a state title under Reese, has been there for 15 years. The junior man on the staff, infielders coach Bruce Johnson, has only been with Reese for a decade.
“I am in awe of what he does and how much he knows about baseball,” Sanelli said about Reese. “The amazing thing about the way he coaches is his players take what they learn on the baseball field and apply that to become successful in the rest of their lives.”
Reese said the secret to his coaching success is instilling in his players that baseball is a game of repetition. They work on all the things they need to do well to win.
“We’ve been doing the same drills for 20 straight years,” he said.
When he first started, the goal that season was to make it to the state tournament. In his tenure, Issaquah has made 13 state appearances, including six final fours. Then, when they won it all in 2000, 2004 and 2007, joining 12 other coaches in the hall of fame with three or more state titles, he amended their goals.
“Winning it all was so much fun, we wanted another one. I guess you get a little greedy, but you always want more,” he said.
The other constant in his coaching career has been his wife Tami. As a volleyball coach at Ballard High School, Reese has appreciated having someone to bounce ideas off of at home who understands his situation. Plus, she’s never missed a game he’s coached over the years, providing a voice of constant support in the stands.
However, now that their son, Tyler, is playing ball for Newport High School, Reese laments his wife has to split her loyalties between the two schools to also watch their son in action.
Reese, who’s been state coach of the year twice, in 2004 and 2007, enjoys his time off in the winters, but can’t wait for March 1 to roll around each year. For now, he shows no signs of letting up.
“It would be tough to ever leave. In fact, I’ve never even thought of leaving,” Reese added.