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The Southern Arizona baseball community lost a great soul yesterday morning. Ryan Hanson was much more than a baseball champion. As his father Mike told me tonight, Ryan was a great brother, son and friend.
I think we can all understand what it means to be a good brother (as Ryan was to his younger sister Lauren) and we know a good son when we see one but Mike and Ryan truly were best friends. It is every father’s dream.
“He was my best friend,” Mike told me. “We were inseparable and I’ll tell you this, he was a much better coach than I ever was. He had a keen eye for talent and he knew how to get it out of players. I was very proud of him.”
I’ve written and spoke at too many funerals that revolved around the death of a child and I know all too well that there are no correct words to tell a grieving parent. Everything sounds wrong and you wonder if you made a difference and you pray you will never have to feel the pain of losing a child.
The only thing you can do is pray and let them know you are there. Mike did give me some advice that he’d like me to pass on to all the other parents out there and that is to hug your children.
The only comfort we have is to know that Ryan passed away peacefully in his sleep and there was nothing that could have been done. Ryan felt he had the flu but there was a clot in his lungs.
Ryan was born late into the night on February 7, 1980 – on his grandfather’s birthday. Perhaps that was the beginning of the friendship and partnership that Mike and Ryan shared.
Mike was an assistant coach at Sabino when Ryan won a state championship and they both coached together at Canyon del Oro through another championship and yet again at Desert Christian last year through another championship run.
Together, they formed the very soul of the Dirtbag Baseball organization. They helped build the foundation that made CDO strong.
The Hanson family will have a private ceremony but there will be a Celebration of Life for Ryan to be held on Saturday, April 26 at the Desert Christian baseball field at 9415 E Wrightstown Rd at 6 pm and everyone is invited.
The Desert Christian players signed a ball and buried it under the third base box in Ryan’s honor and the CDO players honored Ryan by wearing an “H” on their wrist bands and writing “Jr.” on their hats because that is what they used to call him.
Desert Christian will dedicate this season to Ryan.
“We will move on as a team,” added Mike. “The players may think they need their coach but I need them a lot more than they need me.”
Ryan was a former Sabino baseball standout, earning a spot on the All Tucson Citizen team in 1997. It was during that magical year that Sabino won its only state championship.
Hanson moved on to coaching with the Diamondbacks organizations through many player development camps after a brief stint assisting at Sabino. Former Canyon del Oro coach Len Anderson brought Hanson back to Tucson to help out with the CDO program and the Hanson moved over to Desert Christian where the team won a state championship in 2013.
Ryan’s father Mike played at Salpointe under Jerry Stitt and became an assistant coach at Sabino in 1994 under Mike Bejarano before becoming the head coach ten years later. Mike moved over to CDO and helped the Dorados win a state championship in 2009 and later moved over with his son to Desert Christian for their state championship run.
Mike also runs the Dirtbag Baseball youth baseball organization and it is one of the reason why programs such as CDO’s has been successful.
In Ryan’s own words via Dirtbag Baseball: “I believe coaching the game at the high school level is where a coach can really impact the lives and careers of his players. This really is a simple game and at times coaches can make it a little too difficult. I believe in simplifying the game as much as possible while still teaching the fundamentals properly and getting the most out of one’s ability.”
Andy Morales has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com