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Cobb: Jennings made me a baseball junkie

Cobb: Jennings made me a baseball junkie

When it comes to baseball, Hagerstown Community College's Scott Jennings cherishes the relationships he has made as a coach.

The relationship range is far-reaching. The list includes players and parents, opposing coaches, high school coaches he meets while recruiting and four-year college coaches who try to recruit players from HCC.

One of those relationships that falls into almost every category is with Trey Cobb.

Cobb and Jennings have gone full circle.

Cobb was a high school player who played at HCC under Jennings and came back to be an assistant at HCC before moving on to become Smithsburg's baseball coach.

And now, Cobb is coaching Jennings' son, Chris, at Smithsburg.

Cobb took the occasion of Jennings' coaching milestones to tell about how impactful his relationship with his old coach has been.

By TREY COBB

I have known Scott Jennings as "Skip" since my playing days at Funkstown Legion during the summers of 1999 and 2000.

This is what I call him, because he is one of the last few "skippers" — old-school guys who are just baseball men.

Skip has remained a mentor of mine to this present day.

As a player, I was one of his first recruits at Hagerstown Community College.

He also helped Darryl Powell coach at Funkstown. They made a great pair with Coach Powell's intensity and Skip's laidback mannerism and situational genius.

As a player at HCC, I got to experience Skip for the first time as a skip.

I chose to go to HCC with Coach Jennings rather than Potomac State, where I had just gone on a visit while he was interviewing to get the HCC job.

All he said was, "I would like you to come play for me."

Not much of a sell, but that's all I needed to hear to commit to him and HCC. I knew he knew the game, and would take care of me for the next two years.

Those two years with Skip started to make me a baseball junkie. First-and-third plays, bunt defenses, situational hitting, offseason workouts and late-night practices were all parts of my baseball learning curve, and I got to learn all of this from Skip and his assistants — Mike Martin (another great baseball man) and Brad Ahalt (who had a huge passion for the game).

My first year, Skip was able to get us to the region tournament. We came up short, but we all knew he could coach and manage at the college level. The stage was not too big for him. He made his presence known and helped me through my first real test of failure in the game of baseball.

I remember how he would hold kids accountable.

If you didn't do your job, you came out. If you missed a sign (I remember a squeeze I missed), there was no yelling, you just sat. The next guy got his chance.

"Be better than that." That sounds easy and logical, but it's not. Think about how many times people just yell and don't really do anything to instill change. Think about the chances we give our kids and how we "understand."

No, it's not easy, especially when you are trying to win games with less-talented players, while balancing a whole team of individual egos.

It's a way to uphold a standard, and Skip did that.

We were not very good my sophomore year, but Coach found a way for us to be above .500. We all know Skip's legacy of never having a losing season. Skip made moves and had a passion for finding ways to win to remain above .500 for the year.

I moved on to Salisbury University, took a trip to the Division III World Series and graduated in two years.

One would think I would look for a paying job after graduating, but being the baseball junkie I am, the first thing I did after graduating was email Skip to see if I could come back and be on his staff.

All he had was a volunteer position, and I jumped at the chance to learn and coach with him because the program had grown so much after I left.

Being on Skip's staff made my appreciation and respect for him grow even more. Even though I was a 21-year-old, he gave me freedom to work with the defense and lead our offseason strength program.

While I was on his staff, I really saw his situational genius come into play. He is the best game manager I have ever seen. He knows how to put people in the right positions to succeed. He sees things innings ahead and knows how to run a lineup.

We had a great staff in the four years I coached with Skip. It was just a great balance between me, Ahalt and Jason Columbus (former Hagerstown Suns player, and now Alex Bregman's personal hitting coach).

Skip would let me run the defense, Ahalt run the pitchers and Columbus run the hitters. Scott was able to evaluate our team and start to plan when the best time to use those players would be. He was making his mental notes on when a guy would be better suited on the back end of a doubleheader, or how we could hit and run with this guy late in the game to score him from first.

I loved the way Skip would allow us to have the freedom to do what we did best, just like how he did with his players. He knew who to move into the No. 4 spot in the batting order against a lesser talented team and when that same player needed to move down to No. 7 against a more talented team.

We recruited better, but we still had to develop talent and develop a team. We would still win games that we had no business winning due to Skip's in-game magic.

A perfect example was in 2008 when we took a team to Grand Junction, Colorado, for the JUCO World Series. We took a "team."

Skip helped mold a team … a team that only had two Division I transfers, compared to other teams with draft picks and whole D-1 infields.

We took a bunch of guys who were not big-time recruits, and Skip just put them in places to succeed. They played the game better than some incredibly talented teams — one was Pittsburgh Pirate Lonnie Chisenhall's team and another was defending national champion Chipola (Fla.).

Skip knew the right situations to put each pitcher. He knew the right play to call to help give us an edge in the game.

One hit-and-run play I can remember was at Joe Cannon Stadium during the regional tournament. It was late in a tight game, and we had a runner on first base, who was no threat to steal. With a big bat at the plate Skip called the play.

The runner took off from first, while our hitter drove a ball into the gap to score, only because the runner was moving on the pitch. It was a turning point in the game that we eventually won.

Yes, the players perfectly executed the hit-and-run, but Skip had the guts to put it on in that moment, knowing that those two guys, who weren't prototypical candidates, would get the job done.

He knows how to manage a game and does it brilliantly.

Skip keeps the game simple and small, which I feel really helps his teams succeed. This is also such a great skill in the complex world we live in now.

Baseball is hard enough, and for him to keep it small and manageable is such a great trait. His winning record is a testament to his proven process.

Scott Jennings is a baseball legend in our area. His wins speak for themselves because every year is different has a different story. People change, circumstances happen and the successful people remain true to their processes.

You can go to a practice or a fall-ball game and you don't even realize what you may be watching. But, Skip's magic with a lineup, situational awareness and empowering manners have proven the test of time.

He is a gift that I know I am very thankful to have had in my life.

Congratulations Skip on win No. 600 at HCC and the impending 1,000th win of your career.

You earned it all.