Aug. 16—JAMESTOWN — University of Jamestown head coach Tom Hager likes to keep former players in the program when hiring new coaches and has continued that tradition by hiring former pitcher Trey Evans and infielder Tanner Shepard as assistants for the 2022-23 season.
Evans and Shepard are not the only former players on the staff as assistants Ryan Iliff and Elias Sablan and graduate assistant Noah Soltero also played for Hager at UJ.
"When we're looking at former players that want to coach, the first criteria that we examine is are they good people," Hager said. "Have they carried themselves the right way as a player? Are they high character, good work ethic, solid individuals? If they possess those things and want to continue their career in coaching then we try to find that fit."
Shepard comes from a coaching background as he grew up around his father and uncle, who are both coaches. As a result, Shepard said he wanted to get into coaching to continue his love for the game he's played since he was a little kid.
Evans also has coaching experience. He has coached multiple local Jamestown youth teams in the Jamestown Blues American Legion team and the Jamestown Hawks American Legion team.
Since they are only months removed from playing for the Jimmies, Shepard and Evans have to figure out how to change the relationships that they had with their teammates into a more professional one. Evans said finding that balance will be difficult but he is prepared for it.
"I think there is a lot of mutual respect between me and my old teammates now," Shepard said. "I think the maturity level on this team is very high as well. I think it's gonna be fun and I'm gonna get to work with guys I played with. The respect is there so I see it being a really good opportunity getting some great coaching experience with Hager and coach some guys I already know."
While Shepard graduated, Evans is heading into his senior year as a student assistant. Evans had to medically retire from baseball but still wanted to stay in the game. Evans said the medical retirement moved his timeline of getting into coaching up precipitously.
"It's a lot different, it's a different aspect of the game," Evans said. "It comes from not wanting yourself to succeed but having that urge to help those other guys get to that next level that they think they can perform at. I enjoy finding what makes each person tick and what motivates each guy to get better."
While Hager said the two will coach the entire team, Shepard will work with the infielders and the hitters, and Evans will work with the pitchers. Hager said the reason they will coach the entire team is to help them be more rounded and more prepared to take on a program of their own if they so choose.
One of the challenges for Hager is teaching the former players the parts of being a coach that they don't see while on the field.
"I think young coaches when they join a coaching staff are often amazed at how much goes on behind the scenes, in the office and out on the recruiting trail versus just on the baseball diamond," Hager said. "Only about 30% of our job is done on the baseball field, the rest is done building relationships in our community and outside of our community. It's done in the office and in the classroom. So these guys are gonna learn that their value will be extremely high on the baseball diamond, but they also need to know there is a lot more to the job."
After the Jimmies finished the 2021-22 season winning 11 of their last 15 games and making it all the way to the GPAC championship game, Evans and Shepard are ready to get back to it and try to help the team get back to the national tournament.
"I'm excited," Evans said. "It's gonna be a really good year. We have a lot of good guys returning, a lot of good guys coming in and a hell of a year last year that we can build off of. Sure the regular season didn't go the way we wanted but the guys showed they have what it takes with their run at the end."