It was just under a year ago that the Boise Hawks baseball program was cut due to budget constraints. At that time, Gary Van Tol was the head coach for the program. But with the Boise State program being cut, Van Tol was without a job.
It wasn’t long though before a coach of his caliber would find a job, and he had received two offers in a months time. He had originally accepted an offer to be the head coach of the Cowlitz Black Bears of the West Coast League.
“They had reached out to me to see if I had any interest coaching up there in Cowlitz, and to be honest, that was my main focus with the pandemic and all the uncertainty and especially in my career. I was going to have a few of my Boise State guys on the roster. But, God had opened up an opportunity to stay here at home. The Boise Hawks had offered me a position to come in and put the roster together, manage the team. A full-time position, where I could stay at home. It was too good to pass up. In life’s journey, you never know what’s coming around the next corner.”Head Coach, Gary Van Tol
Van Tol has been across the minor league level with many teams, including a previous stint with the Hawks. And when the offer came once again he jumped on it, but he had communicated with the Cowlitz Black Bears front office every step of the way, and they were very supportive.
Gary has stayed in the Pacific Northwest throughout his playing and coaching career. He played for Treasure Valley Community College from 1986 to 1988, then went to Gonzaga from 1989-1990. He started his coaching career the next year at Gonzaga. He has had many stints as an assistant and head coach at the collegiate level, but at the professional level he has coached with the Eugene Emeralds and Boise.
The roster and team (in general) will be different this time around. The Hawks lost their affiliation with the Colorado Rockies with the minor league reconstruction.
“Not being part of a major league affiliation is the big difference, and what Boise is used to is whatever affiliate is here. Whether its the Angels, the Cubs or the Rockies. This is Boise’s team. The front office of the Hawks, they control their brand now and they can do whatever they want. Not being partnered up with a major league club, I think its a great opportunity during this time. When you look at 40 minor league teams being dropped and 20 rounds out of the Major League draft, there are a lot of great players out there looking for jobs. I think the level of play for a traditional baseball fan who knows the history of the Boise Hawks, and has seen the Hawks as an affiliate of a Major League Club. I’m really curious to see their thoughts on the level of play that they are about to witness.”Gary Van Tol
Gary Van Tol and his crew have put together a roster that looks hungry and ready to show the Pioneer League what they are made of. The roster consists of guys that are hungry and humble, they are all appreciative. Most of the players that are now on the Hawks roster have been released by Major League ball clubs while there are others who were overlooked and not drafted. The team may not be affiliated with a MLB club, but the league is partnered with the MLB. Which means that the players can be signed by MLB teams.
“The level of play is (going to be) a little bit better, a little bit cleaner, and more consistent. The biggest difference that fans will see is the level of intensity that our guys will be playing with to win a game (night and night out). In affiliated ball, I’m just preparing guys for the next level and we’re not going to risk somebody throwing too many pitches, extending a guy out of the bullpen to get a W,” Van Tol continued to say “Obviously, we’re going to treat our guys with respect from that health standpoint, but I’m going to manage the game to try to win the game every night.”
As the Boise Hawks look to win the Pioneer League Championship in the first year, they had to have a balanced roster.
“It’s going to be a very balanced roster with only 25 guys, I had to be very strategic to make sure I had enough right-handed bats and left-handed bats, as well as guys that could run and guys that could defend, and some guys with power. From the pitching side, I had to bring in some versatility with guys that could start and guys that could come out of the bullpen.”
The Versatility that can be seen on the Boise Hawks roster will play a huge role in how the team does this season. On May 19th and May 20th, the Boise Hawks will play exhibition games against the Idaho Falls Chukars. The 19th, they are in Idaho Falls, and on the 20th they will play in Boise. The season starts this weekend.
As well as finalizing the roster, the Boise Hawks have finalized the coaching staff. With Van Tol at the relm, he was able to bring his Boise State assistants (Hitting Coach) Travis Buck and (Pitching Coach) Michael Van Kampen. In addition, the Hawks have added former professional pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx as the bullpen coach and Jerry Hollow as the bench coach.
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