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Parasiliti: Hall-bound Jennings not done yet

Parasiliti: Hall-bound Jennings not done yet

Scott Jennings is suddenly at a loss for words.

That's strange. Put Jennings on a baseball field and he always seems to say the right things.

He owns 998 career wins at various levels of the sport, including his present gig at Hagerstown Community College, where he is about to start his 20th season.

It's the worst time for Jennings to lose his train of thought, though. You see, on Saturday, he will be required to give a speech … telling the world about these accomplishments.

Jennings will be inducted into the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame this weekend at a banquet at the BWI Airport Marriott in Linthicum, Md.

"It blindsided me," Jennings said. "I didn't even know I was up for this."

On this night, the MSABC will honor regional high school coaches of the year — including Boonsboro's Steve Mason — and people in various positions and capacities who support baseball in Maryland, along with the preseason all-state team.

But then, it will be Jennings' moment, one filled with pride and seasoned with many emotions because of the magnitude and timing of this induction.

"I'm honored and humbled by this selection," Jennings said. "A Hall of Fame honor is usually the culmination of a career."

That might be the reason Jennings is speechless. He's not done yet. Year 39 of his love of baseball coaching is on the doorstep.

But, at the same time, the Hall of Fame induction allows him to take personal inventory of what he has instead of what he had.

"It takes a lot of years of success for a program or a business to get this," Jennings said. "It's not about one person. … It's not all me."

Like they say, it takes a village. Jennings has a role call to remember.

"To do this you need the help of family, the athletic department, the academic advisors and the fan club," Jennings said, rattling off all the people he must thank in his acceptance. "I can't forget all my assistant coaches … and the athletic directors I worked for."

And that leads Jennings to another very important group to thank.

"It all starts with having good players," he said. "You have to have a philosophy in baseball. You have a set way to do things. The players have to buy into it. You need everyone pulling in the same direction. If you have strong convictions, others will follow, but I embraced suggestions, too.

"It's doesn't matter how good of a manager you are, there will always be problems. But winning solves a lot of those problems. There are always issues, but winning, they make them minimal. If you are winning, you are doing something right."

Winning has provided a measuring stick for Jennings' effectiveness with 606 victories in his first 19 seasons at HCC, an average of 31.8 wins per season. That was a tough average attain, especially since the Hawks were limited to just 40 games in each of his first few years at the school.

And along the way, Jennings' Hawks have set HCC's single-season wins record six times and have qualified for the Region XX tournament every year, winning the title twice. HCC played in the 2008 NJCAA World Series.

Those memories allowed Jennings to single out three people he needs to thank — one who opened a door and two others who taught and influenced his game.

"I have to add Coach (Jim) Brown, who was the AD when I came here," Jennings said. "He gave me the opportunity to coach here."

And he got that chance after years of coaching youth teams and Funkstown Legion. That honed the lessons of his teachers — his father Jim and the late Gene Kerns, whom Jennings played for at HCC.

"I grew up around the game," Jennings said. "My dad was a very good player back in the day. I watched him play in the old independent league. There wasn't a draft back then, but he was offered a contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then, he coached locally for 20-plus years in Little League, PONY and American Legion."

That knowledge was enhanced by Kerns.

"I didn't realize how much I had learned from him," Jennings said. "Back then, I was at that age when you think you know more than you really do. He was a no-nonsense guy. There a lot of things that he did that I still do coaching today."

All this thought gathering started after his surprise notification of his selection to the Hall.

"I got an email from Trey (Cobb, one of Jennings' former players and a local coach in his own right)," he said. "Then I got an email from Ken King, the MSABC president. It was a total surprise."

With time, the magnitude of this event has soaked in.

By the end of this interview, Jennings basically had constructed a pretty good speech.

"I don't plan on talking long," he said.

There's a good chance it will start and end with "Thank you."

"It's nice to know that others appreciate what you have done," Jennings said. "If you do your best every day, you shouldn't need that, but it is still an honor … an honor greatly appreciated."

This is probably the greatest gift of all.

Like Jennings said, usually Hall of Fame inductions come after a career is over. In some cases, the inductee is gone, too.

Jennings will have a chance to enjoy his fortunes. There's no end in sight.

That's a feeling that goes beyond words for Scott Jennings.

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