• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

A trio of new skippers for the Clippers

A mix of familiar and new faces will guide CCA on the diamonds this season… if there is a season

OXFORD– While a question mark hangs over the prospects for baseball and softball seasons this summer, one thing is certain for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) programs. Both varsity baseball and softball teams will have new coaches, and for the Clippers it will be a mix of new and familiar faces.
Nick Zumsande is the varsity boys head coach, and new to CCA. A native of nearby Norway (home to major league players Bruce Kimm, Hal Trosky and Mike Boddicker), he graduated from Norway High School (now part of the Benton Community School District).
“I was OK, I had some ability (as a baseball player),” Zumsande said.
“If you’re not that good, you turn into a coach,” he deadpanned. He played at Iowa State University and was a longtime junior college coach at Muscatine Community College, leaving in 2000. From there he coached at Iowa State just prior to the school dropping its baseball program in 2001. From there Zumsande coached at Indiana State and the University of Iowa before hiring on with the National League East Miami Marlins as a Midwestern scout living in Cedar Rapids. A change in team ownership, and a paradigm shift in scouting methodology, led Zumsande to return to coaching as the head job at CCA opened up.
“It was a good time for me to switch it up in baseball,” he said. “I really like coaching, and when I was scouting, I still did lessons and worked with kids a lot, so it’s not like I walked away from this and decided to get back into it. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
He sees CCA as a good fit for several reasons including location, the district’s continuing growth, and already knowing many of the area’s coaches (from his scouting days). “A lot of those guys were coaching when I coached in college and had to deal with some of their players,” he explained. When contemplating applying, Zumsande talked with many people about CCA, and consistently heard, “This baseball program really has some possibilities down the road. That attracted me to the position. My goal is to continue to step forward with it, there’s some good things in place, but there’s also some really good things in plans, too.”
Zumsande said a good foundation has already been laid for the baseball program, but one thing he hopes for is that today’s eighth graders (freshmen this fall) will “see baseball through” to the end of their senior year. In other words, that they’ll develop a love for the game, a desire to succeed and pride in being a Clipper for the entirety of their high school career.
“There are over 20 eighth graders that said they were coming out for baseball, so my expectation is that by the time they’re seniors, that a very high percentage of those guys see it through,” Zumsande said. “We have four, maybe five seniors and for the size (the program) it is now, and for the size that it will become, that’s really disappointing, and I don’t know where the disconnect is.” He stressed his assessment was in no way a reflection of anybody who had gone before him, and added high school baseball in Iowa, which is a summer sport, faces many challenges from work, to student athletes choosing to focus on a sport they’ll be playing in college. “It makes it pretty easy to give up in the summertime, but I hope to change that,” he added.
Zumsande had a very short (roughly two week) pre-season time with his new team before the schools were closed.
“We had early morning throwing, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, at 6:30 in the morning and we never had less than 40 kids show up,” he said. “That showed me a little bit (about their dedication), and I’ve tried to keep in touch with quite a few of them. I don’t like communicating ‘no news’ to them, and right now I don’t have a lot of news for them.”
Zumsande said if the season is a go, he would preface his words to the team by saying, “Hey, it’s good that we’re doing this, we’re not going to be perfect, it would be great if we were perfect out of the gate but I don’t expect us to be, and I don’t expect us as coaches to be, either. But what I do expect, if this thing ever gets going, that at the end of the regular season (whatever it may look like) and in tournament play, that we are the very best version of who we are that we can be. So, I will look for marked improvement from day one (of practice).”
Over in Oxford, two familiar faces will take over the varsity softball program as Ken Thimmesch and Jodie Scheetz are going to co-coach the Clippers this season.
Thimmesch taught and coached at Twin Cedars for nine years before moving to Williamsburg for 22 years, where he retired from teaching. In addition, he has also coached travel softball clubs (including many CCA girls) for 14 years.
“We moved to Tiffin 10 years ago and wanted to be a part of the community and give back in some way, so mixing Jodie, (longtime friend) Jim White and myself in softball it all just sort of came together to be what it is today,” he said. Thimmesch and White coached JV (junior varsity) football back in the days when CCA and Williamsburg shared a program. “Through the evolution of that, we do a lot of hunting together, and even as Jodie (Scheetz) was being coached by Jim, I have a daughter her age, so we had a small connection there.” Thimmesch said, “Jodie and I have always kind of stumbled across each other through Jim and ourselves.” When the softball position opened up, Thimmesch and Scheetz sat down and he told her the only way he could do it is co-coaching with her. Having retired from a career spent teaching and coaching, a part-time gig was perfect for him, and with White “in the middle” willing to help out with hitting, “and everything involved under a nice umbrella, we had things going in a great direction here January, February and into March.” Thimmesch said they thought they were in a great position, and possibly even ahead of other programs. “And then the bottom fell out (with the school closures).”
Scheetz is a 1999 Clear Creek graduate who went on to play college softball and took her first head coaching job at the age of 20 in 2001 at the MFL-MarMac school district in Monona. She took the Bulldogs to the state tournament in her third year, and then moved to Cedar Rapids Washington High School for one year before spending three years with the Little Hawks at Iowa City High School.
Scheetz decided to step away from high school softball and left City High.
“Then Jim (White) calls me and says he needs an assistant coach, so… the next summer (2008) I was here with Jim, and then we (White, Scheetz and a few CCA players) went to Solon for five years.” She’s been coaching junior high ball for the past two years.
“Watching this program, since I’ve left, I just felt I needed to get back in and give back to what was so good to me,” Scheetz said about applying for the top position, adding she was a little reluctant, which is where Thimmesch and co-coaching came into play. “I fell this will be a great little combo,” she said.
Communication between the pair will be key, Thimmesch said, “And it may be Jodie makes the decisions one week, and Ken makes the decisions the next week,” he said with a laugh. “Are there times we’re gonna look at each other and go, ‘you’re wrong, you’re wrong?’ Yeah, but I think it’ll all work out in the end because it’s not life-or-death for us, we’re here for the kids.”
“It’s all about the kids,” Scheetz added. “We’ll have ideas, and they’ll differ sometimes, but it’s all about the kids and making it right for them.”
Making it right means building some stability for younger players, as well as for the upperclassmen who have seen multiple coaches leading the program in recent years. “They’re the ones who are really caught between a rock and a hard place with the philosophy and coaching styles that are coming, so we just hope they buy into it and stay with the program,” Thimmesch said. “With the turmoil we’re in right now (uncertainty about a summer season), some are already looking forward to college, this is going to be an abbreviated season… is it worth their time? So, we’ve got kids right now we know might not be a part of the program that have been for three or four years,” he said.
Thimmesch and Scheetz met with the girls, eighth graders included, and laid out their philosophy. Unlike Zumsande and the baseball players, not much was needed in the way of introductions. “Jodie had them, and myself, a couple CCA kids played travel ball with me, so they knew who I was,” Thimmesch said. A parents meeting followed where the pair explained their goals and changes they’re making to the program, “We’re trying to turn the page and move the program forward,” Thimmesch said, “And become the new Clear Creek Amana instead of what it was 20 years ago versus what it was the last few years. I think everybody bought into it, we’ve done a few fundraisers, the parents and kids have just been tremendous in getting onboard, and it’s nice to hear people are getting excited about what CCA softball can be again,” he said adding, “We feel we’re on the right path, now we just need time with the kids and to be able to play some games.”
Tradition, and bringing at least some of it back over time to CCA is a motivator for Scheetz, who as a player and a coach has been to the state tournament in Fort Dodge. “I’ve been on the big stage, so I’d love to get us back there with this group of kids.”
A decision on the fate and direction for the baseball and softball seasons is expected on or before Monday, June 1, from the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls Athletic Union, based on guidance from the State of Iowa and Gov. Reynolds lifting restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people. In the event the seasons are green-lighted, a week or two of practice would be followed by competition, with varying scenarios as to how that may look.
“I’ve told them, prepare like there’s a season,” Zumsande said. “This has been hard on everybody, but especially for the seniors in this program, and I’d like to see them have some normalcy to their high school finish.”