BY JEFF FALK
When he first took over the position some were left with the distinct impression that Tim Gingrich, an intense competitor as a player, got into it mainly to stay connected to the game. But somewhere along the way, Gingrich became a pretty good baseball coach.
Ultimately, Gingrich figured out a way to channel that competitive energy inwards.
Gingrich recently stepped aside as Palmyra’s head baseball coach. During his tenure, Gingrich groomed a wealth of talented players into one of the top programs at his school and one of the top scholastic baseball programs in central Pennsylvania.
Gingrich publicly announced his resignation following the Cougars’ loss to Northern York in the opening round of the District Three Class AAA playoffs, after coming to grips with his decision at the beginning of the spring. It was a decision he said he had been throwing around in his head for years.
“I still love it,” said Gingrich. “I watch baseball all the time. I might not do it as much as I used to, but I’m still going to get out to games. I was a bat boy when I was three or four years old in Twilight (League). It’s (stepping aside) definitely going to be a life-changing thing.
“My wife could never understand,” Gingrich continued. “If you look at all the time you put into it, we figured it out one time and the salary was like a penny an hour. It wasn’t a job. It was something I liked to do.”
“In the beginning of the year, my wife and I were kicking it around a bit,” said Gingrich of his retirement. “I thought I did it long enough. A couple of years ago I thought I’d take it year-by-year. Things always have to end sometime.
“I don’t think I had as much desire,” Gingrich continued. “I think it waned a little bit. It started to be a job. But I enjoyed going there and talking to the kids. You can see the writing on the wall. In the next couple of years you’re going to have to fund-raise year-round. That’s why I got a booster club two years ago.”
A coach at the school from which he graduated, Gingrich bleeds orange and black. He was influenced heavily by his father Jack, for whom he played twilight baseball in Palmyra in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Gingrich became the Palmyra High School coach two years after graduation, then went off to college. Upon his return, he became the Cougars’ head man again, in 1992.
“I got lucky twice,” said Gingrich. “I got to coach at my alma mater twice. For me that was long enough.
“I was fortunate,” added Gingrich. “We won three district championships and a state championship in five years. And we won the first state championship at the high school.”
“I remember everything clicked,” he said. “Everything that could go right did go right. It was one of those teams that I could just let them play. They were smart. All I had to do was go over things the day before. It was one of those dream seasons.
“There’s no question that we had a lot of talent go through the program,” Gingrich added. “It was a combination of things. Good players. Good coaches. And having the right kids at the right time.”
“I think kids have changed,” said Gingrich. “When I first started out, you coached. Now you’re a father and a psychologist. A lot of kids are from broken homes. And you’ve got to handle each kid differently.
“To be honest with you, when I first started out I didn’t think I’d coach this long,” Gingrich continued. “From Day One, I just wanted everyone to be on the same page. And we wanted to fix that field up, and even thought it took years, we wanted to give the kids something they’d be proud to play on.”
During his final season, Gingrich’s Cougars went 13-8 and qualified for the District Three Class AAA playoffs, a campaign that was disappointing in some minds. But Gingrich said that Palmyra’s success – or lack of it – had very little to do with his decision to step away.
“I thought we did OK,” said Gingrich. “We may have under-achieved a little bit. We got the ball rolling the last five (regular season) games, and then had a two-week layoff. That hurt us a little bit and we came out flat against Northern York. You can’t do that against a good ball club.”
Gingrich is at an age – 47 – that isn’t normally associated with retirement. While he is not sure what will occupy the time he used to spend on coaching, he also didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to the profession – or hobby – in the future.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever coach again,” said Gingrich. “I’m going to see how it goes this year. Whatever comes up comes up. I can believe that’s (missing it) what’s going to happen in January. I know there’s going to be a void. I’ve just got to figure out how to fill it.
“The program is in pretty good shape,” Gingrich concluded. “That’s why I feel good where I’m at. The way the program is, I’m happy. We have some great kids, and some young kids who are going to turn into fine ball players.”