Contrary to popular belief, Danny Hall actually does own a championship trophy.
It might not be the one he really labored for. It might not be the one he dreamed about. For that matter, he’s not even sure exactly where it is in the house.
But he forever may be indebted to those eight-year-olds from the Wills Park youth league in Alpharetta.
“I helped coach a team four year ago because my son, Carter, was on it,” Hall said Friday. “They ended up winning the Dizzy Dean World Series. After the game, I told those kids, ‘However long I’ve been in baseball, I’ve never been part of a World Series champion. So I want you to understand how special this is.’ That was it. That’s my claim to fame.”
Not quite. But we get the joke.
Hall has Georgia Tech in the NCAA baseball postseason for the 14th time in his 16 seasons. He has won six regionals and been to three College World Series. He coached his 1,000th game Friday night. After Tech’s 9-3 win over Georgia State in the regional opener at Russ Chandler Stadium, the record stands at a fairly lopsided 688-311-1.
So winning is nothing new for Hall. Winning at the end would be. Hall has never won a College World Series.
“Every team starts out with the same goal of going to Omaha,” said the Jackets’ Matt Skole, whose grand slam in the fifth inning turned the game around. “That’s what we play for and what we practice for. Coach Hall has done a great job with us. We want to get there for him, and maybe he can get one of those championships under his felt.”
Hall came closest, strangely enough, in his first season, 1994. He took over the Tech program from Jim Morris, and the Jackets went to Omaha, losing in the finals of the CWS to Oklahoma.
“I’ll never forget what Homer Rice told me when we were walking out of the stadium in Omaha,” Hall said. “He said, ‘You messed up.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean by that?’ He said, ‘You just raised the expectations to unrealistic levels.’ I laughed. I still laugh.”
Just maybe not as hard?
“I’m OK, really,” he said. “When you’re in coaching, you know how hard it is to get there. It makes you appreciate it even more when you do get there. But we haven’t fared as well as we would’ve liked the last two times.”
Coaches will never tell you they need a title for validation. They’ll never admit coming so close but missing bothers them. Until they win one, anyway.
The Jackets reached the College World Series in 2002 but won only once. They made it again in 2006 but were toast in two games. Hopefully, Hall’s resume will not read, “He did everything but …” He’s a good man and a good coach.
The Jackets are 37-17-1, ranked anywhere from 11th to 17th in polls and have one of the best pitchers in the nation in Deck McGuire. But Hall knows handicapping a postseason is futile.
“Looking at our team, we have one starter we can count on,” he said. “And I’ve seen flashes of others guys who give me hope. We have a pretty good offense, but we haven’t been clicking at the same time. So what you hope is that you can put everything together and your team gets a spark. But really, you just don’t know.”
He joked that coaching 1,000 games mostly means “you’re getting older and you’ve coached a long time.”
His message to his players, “I wanted them to look back 20 years from now and think how much fun this was.”
It doesn’t sound like a guy worn down from falling just short. Either that or he’s still channeling the team from Wills Park.