Kevin Heimbigner won two state baseball titles and coached teams to more than 500 career wins.
And now the retired Ilwaco baseball coach was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame on Saturday in Yakima.
Heimbigner’s coaching career actually started in 1963 when he was a year out of Little League as a pre-teenager helping to coach younger kids to gain better baseball skills. After graduating from Ritzville High in eastern Washington, Heimbigner went to college and earned a degree in accounting.
“I’ve always loved sports,” Heimbigner said. “I had kids who could barely play catch as a freshman, but by the time they were seniors were able to compete on the field with experienced players.”
After going through interviews from Seattle to Detroit and not finding a job to suit his needs, he embarked on a coaching career which landed him at Toutle Lake High in 1973. During his four seasons with the Ducks, they won two state titles. Heimbigner later moved on to Odessa High, where he coached baseball and was an assistant coach in football and basketball from 1977-79.
He later moved to Naselle, where he coached baseball from 1979-2003. His 1992 Comets’ team finished runner-up at the State Championships. Staying near the Long Beach Peninsula, he wrapped-up his coaching career with a short stint as the Ilwaco baseball coach from 2004-06.
In his 33-year coaching career, Heimbigner compiled a 501-166 record, coached more than a thousand athletes, and had his teams place in 18 state tournaments. He was also named the state Coach of the Year in 1978.
“I’ve always liked the competition, and I really liked working with kids from smaller schools,” Heimbigner said.
Heimbigner, and his wife, Debbie, retired on the Long Beach Peninsula, but he became restless. He went to work for the Chinook Observer, where he was an award-winning writer for more than a decade. He also wrote books on the 1959 Ilwaco basketball championship, and his exploits as a fisherman. In addition, he helped pen the state basketball book Remembering the B’s, where he contributed stories about teams and players from the west side of the state.
“Coaching was all about celebrating the kids,” Heimbigner added. “I had 27 kids who played in college, and two who played pro ball.
“All of them came from small schools.”