The Yelm Tornados baseball program did not take long to hire a new head coach following the resignation of Zach Miller in mid-January.
Dakota Hill, 2017 Yelm High School graduate and four-year member of YHS’s baseball team, was officially named the new head coach on Thursday, Feb. 1. Prior to becoming the Tornados’ new coach, Hill was a member of the Olympia Bears coaching staff. He was a part of the Bears 2022 4A state championship team.
Previously, in September, Hill began his first year of teaching algebra and pre-algebra at Yelm High School.
“It’s an honor that I’m trusted with this position. It’s not something I take lightly at all. I’m here for the long run and to turn Yelm baseball into a state championship program. If nobody else has those standards for us, we have to have those standards for us,” Hill said. “I’m going to hold myself and the staff to the same standard that the players are held at. If we work hard, they’ll work hard and vice versa. The goal is that nobody is going to outwork us and that people are going to hate playing us.”
When Yelm’s head baseball job became open, Hill turned to Olympia’s head baseball coach, Derek Weldon, Yelm’s head football coach, Jason Ronquillo, and Yelm’s head wrestling coach, Gaylord Strand, for advice.
“They told me that you’re never really ready for your first job. That’s when I really decided I should go for it, but it was a really hard decision. I love those boys out there in Olympia, and I loved working with that staff,” Hill said. “I waited it out, prayed on it, and this is what I came to.”
Joining Hill on the Tornados staff is Dennis Gubser, Garrett Friesz, Camden Gubser, Mike McGuire and Ryne Oshiro. Dennis served as a baseball coach at YHS “back in the day” and returns to the program in a varsity assistant role. Friesz, JV assistant, served on Yelm’s coaching staff under Miller.
“(Dennis) is going to help me out a lot. Since I’m somewhat green, he’s going to give me some really good, sage advice from time to time. I’m going to lean on him for that from time to time, and I’m appreciative of him for taking this opportunity,” Hill said. “(Garrett) is another Yelm alum. He and I have played together since we were 10, including in high school and college, and it’s really cool to have him on staff.”
Dennis’s son, Camden, YHS class of 2021, joins McGuire and Oshiro as volunteer coaches on the staff. Hill said they each bring a different aspect of coaching to the team.
“(Camden) is going to be awesome. He brings great energy, and he’ll be able to build great relationships with the athletes. Mike is one of the councilors here and is going to help out. He’s played college ball at a pretty high level,” Hill said. “Ryne will swing by and help us out when he can. I’ll definitely lean on him. He was one of my teammates at Saint Martin’s.
“All of these guys are good men before good coaches,” Hill continued. “That’s what I’m looking for and what I want to base my program on. I want the kids in the program to turn out to be good husbands, fathers. If you become good people, winning will come. I’m excited to have these good men around these kids.”
Hill intends to bring a lot of what he learned as a coach at Olympia High School to the Yelm program. He said, offensively, the Tornados will put pressure on defenses through stolen bags and bunts to “push the envelope.”
“There’s so much from Olympia that I’m bringing here, including the mentality of earning it every day,” Hill said. “Everybody has to put their share in, do the little things you can do to make yourself better.”
Yelm baseball held a player interest meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6 and will begin practicing on Feb. 26. The team’s first contest is scheduled for Friday, March 8 at home against Lakes High School.
“We have to come out and play at state championship speeds. If you want to be a state championship team, you have to play at a state championship level,” Hill said. “That will be the standard.”
One of Hill’s goals as head coach is to improve relationships between the high school baseball program and youth baseball organizations. He’d like to incorporate a “youth night” into the team’s schedule this year.
“Once the dust settles and I have a schedule, I do plan on reaching out to the youth leagues. You take a look at the football team and TCYFL (Thurston County Youth Football League). That relationship was rock solid and look how it’s worked out for our football program,” Hill said. “I don’t think high school athletes realize they’re heroes to these little guys. If you show up at a practice and they come to your game, then you knock a double, they’ll go crazy. Being able to build those relationships with our youth in the community will be huge.
“Another thing we’ll be doing, and we’ll probably need a little community help, is our Saturday breakfast,” Hill said. “The football team is able to have their pre-game dinner on Thursday nights, but baseball doesn’t really have that. We want to have a pancake breakfast, then have a motivational speaker come in. We want to build camaraderie.”