Robin Hamilton keeps a poster of Cal Ripken hanging in her office. Ripken, the indestructible big league shortstop who spent his entire 20-year career with the Baltimore Orioles, holds the record for most consecutive games played. It’s clear Hamilton has taken the poster’s message of perseverance to heart: In 22 years as the Loggers’ softball coach, she never missed a practice or game.
“I obviously come from healthy stock, but I also hope my commitment served as an example to my teams. When I say ‘I’ll be there,’ I’ll be there,” she says. “I had a root canal one day, but I still made it to practice. I’m sure I was cranky, but I was there.”
Truth is, Hamilton did a lot more than just show up. Now she’s stepping down as softball coach, ending her run as the winningest coach in Puget Sound sports history: she compiled a 455-305-3 record. Two of her teams finished runner-up at the NAIA national tournament. Her teams also produced 10 first-team All-American selections, eight NAIA National All-Tournament players, and nearly 70 All-Conference student athletes.
She’s proud of the way her players learned to both work and play together. She’s proud of “Logger Time,” a concept that required players to be 15 minutes early for everything (“You’re never going to get in trouble for being early.”) And she’s proud of the many times hotel management or restaurant owners stopped her to say hers was the best-mannered team they’d ever served.
“It’s been a great run and I’ve loved every minute, but I’m a big believer that you need to know when it’s time to move in a different direction,” she says.
For Hamilton, that direction is actually more of a refocusing. She’ll continue handling the management of home sporting events in her role as associate athletics director, a job she took on in 2003 when the university hired a full-time sports information director. She’ll also oversee compliance and student athlete issues and head up special events, including Little Loggers Camp and the Logger Open Golf Tournament.
Hamilton came to Puget Sound in 1984 to serve as the SID. Her contract required her to coach a spring sport, so Hamilton, who was a four-year starter in both volleyball and softball at Idaho State, took the helm of the Puget Sound softball program in 1986. Back then UPS and PLU were two of the few schools in the state that were playing fast pitch softball.
The growing popularity of the windmill-style pitch is just one of many changes Hamilton has witnessed during her coaching career. The game itself has evolved, particularly the short game, which now includes more slapping and bunting.
“The talent level has probably been the biggest change I’ve seen,” she says. “You don’t see so many multisport athletes anymore; most of these young women have been playing club ball since they were 8 years old. That didn’t happen 20 years ago.”
Hamilton knows she’ll miss the players and many aspects of coaching, but she admits she’s looking forward to having time to watch her nephews play baseball and to attend other spring Logger sporting events.
“I’m certainly not complaining, but I’m pretty darned excited about having my first spring break in 22 years,” she says.
— Mary Boone