Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Thousands of teammates, pupils and Ws

Daily Inter Lake | May 17, 2023 12:00 AM

Gary Evans, the unheralded (and unpaid) pitching coach for the Glacier Wolfpack, figures he’s played alongside a thousand different fastpitch players.

Two times that, and you have a rough estimate of career games.

“I played for 40 years,” he said last week, as Glacier prepared to battle Missoula Hellgate on the Knights’ home softball diamond at the Rattlesnake Fields. “Last year was the first one I didn’t pitch… since 1982, ‘83.”

Evans is a 1982 Havre High graduate who earned a business administration degree from Montana State-Northern and managed the Kalispell Herbergers for 25 years. Among his lesser accomplishments, he played on the Havre North Stars with yours truly.

We think. I was there in 1980, and so was he. I had trouble getting eligible because I was so far out of my Legion district, and when my host family had some marital issues I went back to Harlowton with a career Legion average of .333 (I went 1-for-3 against Cut Bank).

Evans kept going, and before Legion was over he was playing fastpitch, in a town that really loves the game.

It was there that he started throwing in the underhand fastpitch style, and if the early results weren’t great — so he says — he got a lot better. He put together some teams that included Northern basketball players, then Northern football players and eventually recruited a Havre product and Griz Hall of Famer named Marc Mariani.

Meanwhile a nice little volunteer career was born.

“The hours stink, but the pay is bad,” Evans cracked, then added: “I’ve never asked for anything either.

“My daughters played, so I was always close to the game and since I pitched it was always kind of a natural fit. You help where you think you can help — it’s always tough to have too many cooks in the kitchen. But whenever I was asked, I would help.”

He’s coached at both Flathead and Glacier — his second daughter played for the Bravettes while the youngest played for the Wolfpack — though since 2012 or so he’s been running with the Pack.

“I’ve always heard about him, because he was (Glacier alum) Ali Williams’s pitching coach,” Glacier junior Ella Farrell said. “He’s been pretty involved in Glacier’s softball program. But I really got to know him as a freshman, at open gyms.”

Farrell burst onto the scene her freshman season, with 151 strikeouts in 88-plus innings and a 2.54 earned-run average. The ERA rose to 3.76 last season, as did the walks; this season it is a stingy 2.69.

“I think he’s helped me not just as a pitcher, but mentally as a player,” she said. “He’s always there on the sidelines, giving me encouragement.”

Farrell and Co. can sew up the top seed in the Western AA Thursday, with a win over Flathead at the Glacier fields. The Bravettes are improving — they can secure a spot in the State AA tournament with wins at Butte on Saturday — though they have not beaten Glacier since 2014.

The Pack are 15-2, boast several .300 hitters, two tough pitchers and a handful of late-inning rallies. They also have a pitching coach that dislikes publicity, and loves to coach. Would Glacier be the perennial power it is without him? Farrell, for one, doesn’t believe so.

Either way, the price is right.

“I get a lunch once a while,” Evans said, smiling. “That’s all.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@dailinterlake.com.