By KATIE BROWN
The Daily Inter Lake
Someday he’ll slow down, Kalispell Lakers AA coach Ryan Malmin supposes, but that isn’t currently on the horizon.
“Right now, the passion’s there, the energy’s there,” he said. “I love the game of baseball and think it teaches kids a lot about life and how to handle success and failure. It’s about having fun. I’ve got a great coaching staff and great support from our board and community.”
There’s no evidence that he should, either. Last week, he earned his 700th win in an away game in Libby versus the Loggers A and has the Lakers rolling to a 15-2 record so far this season.
Malmin is in his 13th year with the Lakers and has 23 years of coaching experience under his belt.
That’s most of his adult life.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate in the fact that not a lot of guys stay in coaching for 23 years,” Malmin said.
“Not everybody coaches like I do. I wear my emotions on my sleeves and challenge to hold our expectations and to exceed those expectations. I’ve had that support from the board and a lot of community members and players as well. We’ve been fortunate to have great kids in our program. When you have great kids that are willing to work and buy into what you want to do and the vision you see, it’s a key for success. We’ve had a lot of fun the last few years.”
Before the Lakers, Malmin coached the Glasgow Reds. His involvement with Legion baseball goes deeper, though.
A northwestern Montana native, Malmin graduated from Whitefish High School and played for the Glacier Twins from 1987-89. He went on to pitch for Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota
Malmin is a teacher by trade. He taught high school English in Glasgow before returning to the Flathead Valley in 2006.
Now at Flathead High School, Malmin is head of the English department, teaches an IB class and a program called Freshman Academy that helps ninth graders transition from middle school to high school.
Malmin remembers exactly where his 400th, 500th and 600th wins were. No. 400 was at Griffin Field against Libby, No. 500 against Coeur d’Alene and 600 in Billings against the Scarlets. He rattled off each of these without hesitation. Seven hundred is a pretty big number, though.
“It just means that I’m getting old,” Malmin quipped.
With the years come the memories and Malmin has an ample supply.
Memories like the time Joe Pistorese threw a perfect nine-inning game against the Glacier Twins or when his son, Walker, threw a seven-inning shutout against the Calgary Redbirds in 2015 in front of a host of scouts there to watch ace Mike Soroka pitch. The Lakers won that game 8-0.
“He talked me in to giving him the start,” Malmin said. “He wanted the ball. He demanded it. I am glad I listened.”
Walker is now a part of the Lakers’ coaching staff. Pistorese played in college for Washington State University, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and served as a pitching coach for the Lakers last season.
And then there’s the comeback walk-off victory in the Washington State University Tournament in 2011, when the Lakers came back from six runs down in the seventh.
“Those things stick out pretty well when you have kids that make outstanding individual performances,” he said.
Some memories are a little more bittersweet.
In 2016, the Lakers were seemingly in control in the seventh inning of the championship game versus the Scarlets.
“We had a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning with two outs,” Malmin said. “Had a few things not go our way and ended up losing that despite a great season —— it was a 42-win season and it was a great run in the state tournament.”
There’s a host of preparation that has to be done off the field, before the season even begins. From January to March, the Lakers work out at the FORT, a multi-use sporting facility in Evergreen.
Off the diamond, Malmin conducts what he calls “skull sessions” that focus on players’ routine, consistency and team building, among other things.
“Baseball’s a mental game and so we try to take advantage of those opportunities and work on the mental game,” he said. “Our acronym is COMPETE and so those words are things that we try to touch base on in our skull sessions.”
Malmin has several players headed to the collegiate level. Third baseman Randy Stultz and pitcher Logan Siblerud are bound for Montana State University-Billings this fall.
“It’s been a great group of kids that have good leadership and understand what our environment and what our culture is expected to be and they’re teaching the younger kids,” Malmin said.
The Lakers host the Libby Loggers A at 6 p.m. today. Conference play begins Sunday at 2 p.m. versus Missoula.
“There’s always room to improve but we like the way the kids have played and grown from week to the next,” Malmin said. “We’re excited to see how that transfers into the next part of the season. We’ll find out on Sunday.”