The legendary Jerry Kindall is no longer with us, but his meaningful words of Chip Hale remain.
Hale, hired as Arizona’s baseball coach on Monday, will return to lead the program of which as an infielder helped Kindall win a national championship in 1986.
“He had a real instinctive grasp of the game, first of all, and then of leadership as a freshman,” Kindall said in 2014 after Hale was announced as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager. “He started every game for us for four straight years, so you could tell the confidence that the coaches — Jerry Stitt, Jim Wing and myself — placed in him right away as a freshman.
“Teammates gravitated toward him because they trusted him. He never let us down, was never late for any team function. He was a delight to coach. He was the consummate captain — actually, co-captain because that was our policy — and he led our team in wonderful ways.”
Asked what Kindall’s reaction would be to the news of Hale’s hire, former Arizona teammate Steve Strong said, “No one’s happier right now than Coach Kindall.”
“There’s a short list of players he would want to see coaching at Arizona. Obviously, Terry Francona would be on that list,” Strong added. “As far as guys who Coach Kindall would want to see succeed him, 100 percent Chip would be on that very, very short list.”
Strong said he has maintained daily contact with Hale throughout Arizona’s coaching search after Jay Johnson left to LSU last week following a six-year run in Tucson.
“Chip’s excited about the job,” Strong said. “He’s got a good understanding what needs to happen and he’s super excited about it. I think he brings the knowledge of the history and tradition of Arizona baseball along with an understanding of what’s going on in baseball today.”
Hale, 56, managed the Diamondbacks for two seasons as one of his five MLB organizations he served as a manager or coach.
Having worked with Chip & having him as a bench coach I always felt like he would be PERFECT for the college game. Prepared. Motivated. Grinder. Disciplined. Regimented. He will have expectations & should those young athletes pay attention they will exceed them on & off the field https://t.co/6DGd4Lud2W
— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) July 5, 2021
Hale’s last stint was with Detroit, where he was serving as the third base coach for the Tigers. His 15 years of professional baseball coaching experience includes time with the Washington Nationals (2018-20), Oakland Athletics (2012-14, 2017), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007-09, 2015-16) and New York Mets (2010-11).
None of his coaching background is at the college level, however, a fact that has drawn criticism from Arizona fans on social media. Comments have included Hale being a “terrible hire” and “not sure if this is the correct hire.”
When he played for the Wildcats, Hale was a fan favorite. NBC-TV sportscaster Dan Hicks was the public-address announcer at Sancet Field who drew a rise from the fans when Hale approached the plate. “And now batting No. 6 Chip …,” Hick purposely paused before the fans yelled, “Haaaale.”
Strong said he is not concerned about Hale’s ability to draw high-level talent to Tucson.
“Chip has contacts far and wide. Whether it’s a former teammate that’s coaching an elite club travel team down in Florida, or a scout that he’s had discussions with, he’s got a national network to draw from,” Strong said. “You look at Coach Kindall, there’s a reason Terry Francona wound up coming out to play for Arizona from Pennsylvania, and that was the fact that Coach Kindall and Terry’s dad (Tito) played together.
“His dad respected Coach Kindall so much that Terry came here. I think the same thing will be true of Chip. Anybody who’s been around him has a tremendous amount of respect for him and his knowledge and approach to the game.”
More than one source has indicated Dave Lawn will remain with the program as the pitching coach. Johnson brought Lawn with him from Nevada as pitching coach in 2015.
— Arizona A-Club (@UALETTERWINNERS) July 5, 2021
“Dave is one of the elite pitching coaches in the country,” Johnson said when he arrived in Tucson. “There are very few pitching coaches across the United States who have the winning experience he has and have developed as many pitchers who have ascended to Major League Baseball.”
Lawn, who became Arizona’s defensive coordinator after Nate Yeskie was hired as pitching coach in 2019, also has a background of being the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at California (1991 to 2000) and USC (2001 to 2007).
He helped develop Nathan Bannister, Bobby Dalbec and JC Cloney as effective pitchers who were part of Arizona’s 2016 College World Series team.
Lawn, a high school coach at Anaheim, Calif., as recently as 10 years ago, is well known in recruiting circles in California.
Hale must find a young strong recruiting presence with his other assistant coaching position.
Without that hire announced, the father of Arizona freshman outfielder Chase Davis, an MLB prospect, tweeted he is in favor of the hire of Hale.
“Great to have a coach who really wants to win and be here for the Arizona baseball players,” Tommy Davis mentioned. “I’m excited and look forward to great things happening over the next 2 years.”
Great to have a coach who really wants to win and be here for the Arizona baseball players. I’m excited and look forward to great things happening over the next 2 years. Go Cats! 💪🏿🎉🎈 https://t.co/erkak5zUck
— Tommy Davis (@tdfb38) July 5, 2021
Arizona has 18 of its current players in the transfer portal, many of them doing so as a backup plan depending on the Wildcats’ hire.
Jacob Berry, an All-American as a freshman, has already announced he is transferring to LSU to play for Johnson in Baton Rouge, La.
The Wildcats who are in the transfer portal:
- RHP George Arias Jr., son of former Arizona standout George Arias (Soph.)
- 1B Branden Boissere (Soph.)
- OF Tag Bross (Fr.)
- OF Tyler Casagrande (Soph.)
- LHP Ian Churchill (Jr.)
- RHP Bryce Collins (Fr.)
- LHP Riley Cooper (Fr.)
- RHP Hunter Cope (Fr.)
- 1B/RHP TJ Curd (Fr.)
- IF Kyson Donahue (Fr.)
- RHP German Fajardo (Fr.)
- RHP Quinn Flanagan (Soph.)
- OF Ryan Holgate (Soph.)
- C Kaden Hopson (Fr.)
- LHP Garrett Irvin (Jr.)
- RHP Ryan Kysar (Fr.)
- OF Blake Paugh (Jr.)
- UTIL Jacob Shaver (Fr.)
Keeping Arizona’s program at the College World Series level Johnson maintained, Hale must prepare himself for working around the clock.
Hale has an innate sense of getting the job done to a great extent since he was very young.
In a 1987 Tucson Citizen article written by Dave Petruska, it was revealed that Hale as a 3-year-old started painting the outside of his family’s home at Cupertino, Calif., with white enamel paint on a large paint brush. The broad strokes were an eyesore on the cedar-shingled house. He started at the front door and worked toward the garage.
A neighbor called the family, but by then, Hale already literally made his mark on the house.
“My dad never could get that paint completely off the house before we sold it,” Hale’s sister Kathy told Petruska with a laugh. “The thing I’ll never forget is how angry Chip got when he got stopped. He had that ‘can-do’ look on his face, that look of intensity he has when he’s playing baseball.
“He’s a very serious person. He has always been that way, especially when he is playing baseball.”
When Hale was hired as the Diamondbacks’ manager, Kindall told Fox Sports the story of Hale requesting new shoes for the team early his freshman year.
“I had ordered them and the equipment staff had issued them to the players, and it was very shortly thereafter that Chip came into the office and said, ‘These shoes are too heavy. We should have shoes that feel more comfortable,'” Kindall said.
“And I said, ‘Young man, you just make sure you are fielding and hitting and throwing. I’ll take care of the equipment.’ I wasn’t offended. I was amused. And you know what, he was right. The next year we got better shoes.”
In the Tucson Citizen article written by Petruska, Kindall was quoted as saying of Hale: “Chip, from the start, has been a bear-down kind of player.”
“He won a job as a freshman and never gave it up. He’s a winner. I can give no higher praise to a player of mine.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District