Sports -- June 28, 2007

Published on Thu, Jun 28, 2007
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by Jack Kintner

Blaine athletic director Gary Clausen to retire, again

Blaine athletic director and head baseball coach Gary Clausen, who retired from teaching five years ago and then was re-hired to continue as athletic director, has retired again after 27 years at the helm of Blaine athletics.

He will continue as head baseball coach but has turned the athletic department reigns over to another Blaine native, Wayne Vezzetti, with the close of this school year.

As coach he regularly took baseball teams to post-season play, getting to the state tournament 11 times, placing fourth in 1998, third in 1991 and 2005 and winning the championship in 1990.

In 1998 Clausen was named to the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Clausen, like most good coaches, sometimes had to be both clever and lucky to win.

“One year in a playoff game Bob Woods threw his arm out. He could still swing a bat and catch, though, so we put him at first,” he said. “During warm-ups we put a kid next to him to throw the ball for him. He’d catch and then flip it to this kid, but the opposing coach never figured that out and thought it was part of our routine. If he’d caught on we’d have been sunk.” Clausen laughed.

“1989 to 1992 were some good years for Blaine athletics,” Clausen said. In addition to winning the state baseball crown, the 1990 wrestlers won the state title and the basketball team placed fourth at the state tournament.

Several players under Clausen’s watch have been drafted in the professional ranks, including Cleveland Indians prospects Brad Wolten and Tyler Swinburnson and, this year, Joey Paciorek, a fifteenth round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers.

As assistant director, Clausen recalled other outstanding Blaine athletes such as Scott Baker in the late 1980s, Luke Ridnour and current girls basketball coach Rob Adams, who lettered in football, basketball and baseball, Jessica Summers, a four year all-state pick in basketball, Jeri Lyn Boykin, Heather Ridnour and Brenda Dodd.

He also remembered being in school three years behind one of Blaine’s most gifted and unusual athletes, Richard “handshake” Hanson, whose intelligent style of play seemed to at times have been inspired by the Harlem Globetrotters. Clausen told of going to a playoff game at Monroe where Hanson was down in the key with the Monroe center while their guards brought the ball up against a Blaine press.

Hanson started talking to the center and walking around him at the same time, keeping him in the key while waving behind his back to the referee.

“And about the time they brought the ball past mid-court, sure enough, the center got called for a three second violation and Blaine got the ball back.”

Hanson went on to Central Washington University, where he was a consensus all-American four years in a row.

Clausen has overseen development of top-flight athletic facilities at Blaine as well as emphasizing girls’ athletics.

Over the years there have been fierce rivalries between other Whatcom County schools like Ferndale and Lynden, before they outgrew Blaine. Clausen’s last big project has been to help get the Northwest conference up and running.

“We needed to address the issue of transportation expense,” he said, “and in the process kind of lost the old rivalries in the county league. One’s kind of emerging with Mt. Baker, though, since we’re the two smallest AA schools in the new league.”

Clausen and his wife Kerry both have deep local roots. Clausen’s paternal grandmother was a Runge and homesteaded near where the Pacific Building Center is now located.

They have two daughters, Kelli in Bellingham and Kristin who runs and is part owner of the local Sports Unlimited sporting goods store.

“All I have to worry about now is Baseball,” Clausen said, looking forward to next year.