When Paul Gehring stepped onto the bus and joined the rest of the Kelowna Jays baseball team on its way to Trail last weekend, he was one of several new faces on the Jays roster.
In fact, the 30-year-old newly-hired coach had just arrived in Kelowna and hadn’t even met the players he would be coaching over the next two months.
“I got in Friday night and jumped right on the bus the next morning,” said Gehring, who is an assistant coach at Edmunds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington during the fall and spring seasons. “It was a little weird at first. I’m a young guy and at first some of the guys thought I was player and were asking me what position I play. I had to say ‘I’m the coach.’ It was an easy transition though, once we played a game out there and got one under our belts, everyone meshed together.”
The Jays will play a 20 game Pacific International League (PIL) schedule this year as well as games in the Okanagan Major Baseball League and exhibition games under the eye of Gehring, along with assistant/playing coach Jared Johnson.
The team will be a mix of local players, players from the Okanagan College Coyotes and some other CCBC teams, a couple of American players as well as veteran Jays such as Cory Smith and Brett Sanguin. For Gehring, the chance to be a head coach and continue to develop as a bench boss was what brought him to Kelowna.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be a head coach and do things the way I want to do it,” he said. “This is going to make me a better coach. I started coaching right when I got out of college and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
A catcher as a player, Gehring played four years of NAIA baseball at York College in Nebraska and earned a masters in sports administration along the way. He has coached in various summer baseball leagues during an eight year coaching career and has also coached in the Kelowna Jays tournament as an assistant with Thurston County. He says he’s looking forward to spending the summer in Kelowna working with the Jays’ players.
“We’re going to go out and play some good quality teams this year and I expect to compete against all of them,” he said. “Kamloops, Seattle, they have good teams and I expect us to be able to compete against the high level teams.”
As for style of play, Gehring says his team will play an aggressive style and put pressure on the opposition.
“I really want to have a team that wants to play hard, wants to hustle on and off the field and plays the game the right way,” he said. “Strategy wise, I want to put pressure on people, put the game in motion and see where it takes us.”
The Jays will host their 10th annual Canada Day baseball tournament June 27 through July 1 at Elks and will also host the B.C. Junior Baseball Championships July 19 to 21 this year.
This weekend the Jays are home for four games at Elks Stadium playing Trail and Langley on Saturday (1 and 4 p.m.) before hosting Seattle on Sunday (2 and 4:30 p.m.)