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Parasiliti: Jennings takes milestones in stride

Parasiliti: Jennings takes milestones in stride

Hagerstown, MD - May 12, 2019 -

 

Milestones are a universal concept.

By definition, they are markers of significance.

They measure how far one has traveled, both in length and success. Call them checkpoints.

For guys like Scott Jennings, milestones go past in a blur. They prove where you've been, not where you're going.

Jennings, who has traveled far and wide as Hagerstown Community College's baseball coach, gauges milestones differently.

"Wins are great, but I remember the losses more," he said. "They are gut-wrenching."

Like it or not, though, Jennings is lodged between two major baseball milestones.

Last month, Jennings collected his 600th victory at HCC, a great accomplishment for a former player who returned to guide the program.

The other one is just out of reach. The Hawks' season ended just before Jennings could reach his 1,000th career win. That one will be resolved when the new season begins next March.

For now, Jennings stands at 998 total wins in 38 years of coaching college, PONY and Legion baseball in Washington County, without ever suffering a losing season.

"It just means I've had longevity," Jennings said. "Nineteen years here … that's a long time, but it's gone by pretty fast. They say the older you get, the faster the years go by.

"It's been a lot of great years, a lot of great kids and a lot of great relationships."

Jennings has amassed 606 wins at HCC, an average of 31.8 victories per season.

"Our consistency is something I've always be proud of," Jennings said. "The 600 wins is longevity, but it takes consistency to get you to that number. There is a lot of change every year. Half the team leaves after every season. That makes it tough to stay consistent, but we have, and that makes me proud."

Junior college programs suffer huge turnovers as players usually only stay for one or two years. That makes every year a rebuilding year.

"Things have changed," Jennings said. "Everything does. Kids are different, and I don't mean that in a negative way.

"They look at a two-year school and they say, 'What are you going to do for me?' I turn that around. I ask them, 'What are you to do for ME?' They are coming in here to get their baseball and education resume. I try to help them as much as I can, but it's up to them to get the grades and play."

In Jennings' tenure, the Hawks have set the school's single-season wins record six times and have qualified for the region tournament every year, winning the title twice. There also was a JUCO World Series appearance in 2008.

Last week, Jennings was named Maryland JUCO coach of the year for the Hawks' 37-18 season, which included a 21-5 league record.

And in it all, players have gone on to four-year schools. Some leave with All-Maryland JUCO and All-Region honors. There been a few All-Americans and 22 former Hawks have either been drafted or signed pro contracts.

"I've mellowed a lot as a coach, but not in my standards and expectations," Jennings said. "When I was younger, I was more of a go-getter. It was my way or the highway.

"Now, to be a success, you have to know what makes each kid tick. Some of them just need a pat on the back, others need a little kick to get going. To be a success, you have to know that."

What remains is Jennings' style of coaching. He has a knack to anticipate the flow of games and the ability to figure out the right place and right time for players to be successful. In some cases, HCC has had a habit of outplaying the competition.

Those abilities can be inspirational. And for some, such as Smithsburg baseball coach Trey Cobb, Jennings' attributes have become building blocks.

Cobb was part of one of Jennings' first HCC recruiting classes. After playing at Salisbury State, he later returned to be an assistant coach, before eventually moving to Smithsburg.

Cobb credits his passion for the game and his successes to the time with Jennings.

"(Jennings') magic with a lineup, situational awareness and empowering manners have proven the test of time," Cobb wrote in his own column. "He is a gift that I know I am very thankful to have had in my life."

The milestone wins symbolize something more significant to Jennings.

For now, his accomplishment is signified by a small glass case that holds a game ball with "600" across it. It is joined by balls from his 400th and 500th wins. The keepsake sits on a shelf above his desk.

"It isn't an ego thing," Jennings said. "It is something the school did for me. I don't always remember which game was No. 600. I have to look."

For the record, the win came on April 11 in the second game of a home doubleheader with Garrett.

"After I leave here and I'm long gone, all my victories here will be forgotten," he said. "The next coach will come in and start his career. But for me, that's when all the experiences, the road trips and the memories will remain."

There are still wins ahead, but Jennings sees "the light at the end of the tunnel."

He will leave as a former HCC player who came back to embrace the job of coaching his school.

"When guys come back to visit and I see them with their families … and some of them tell me they are now coaching … that's the kind of stuff that makes it all worth it," he said.

Reaching 600 wins got Scott Jennings a ball. The relationships created in those wins will be his milestones of a lifetime.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or bobp@herald-mail.com.