Iowa Western assistant baseball coach killed in car wreck
Iowa Western Community College assistant baseball coach Chris Hodges died Thursday in a car wreck on U.S. Highway 550 near Colona in Ouray County.
According to the Montrose Daily Press, Hodges was driving southbound on the two-lane highway when a van crossed the center line and collided with a truck towing a trailer before hitting Hodges’ car.
Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin said the loss was a shock to the coaching staff and players.
“I really keep waiting for him to walk through that door,” Rardin said. “It’s one of the toughest things I’ve gone through as a coach. I was — and the players were — looking forward to having him for an entire year.”
Rardin said an assistant coach left for a job in professional baseball during the winter of last year. He called some coaches Hodges worked with in the past and received nothing but glowing reviews.
Hodges made the trip to Grand Junction for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series this year.
Hodges is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University and was working towards a master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, according to the Iowa Western athletics website.
Hodges, a Wyoming native, began coaching baseball in his home state, leading Casper to an American Legion state championship game in 2006 and assisting Gillette when it won a state title in 2008.
From there, Hodges joined the Scottsdale Community College coaching staff and made two trips to the Division II Junior College World Series. He was the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s hitting coach before joining the Reivers.
“When I called (coach) Alex Cherney at Scottsdale, someone I knew and trusted from when I was at Scottsdale, he said if he had a full-time position he would have hired (Hodges) back immediately,” Rardin said. “(Hodges) came over on a visit and I hired him.”
Hodges, on top of serving as an assistant coach, lived in the dorms with the baseball players.
Rardin called it the “hardest assistant coaching job I have.”
“His interaction with the players is literally 24 hours,” Rardin said. “He’s around 18- and 19-year-old kids 24-7 and when you’re going out on the field you’re wanting their respect, their attention and you’re getting the most out of them. You’re demanding things from them and pushing them and he could do balance that.
“He had their respect and their love on the field and the other 20 hours of the day, and that’s something that’s hard to do with 18- and 19-year-old kids because they can’t always separate those things. But he could do that and it’s so important because if he loses the players there, the rest of the coaching staff can start losing kids. He didn’t let that happen.”
Rardin added Hodges fit perfectly with Iowa Western’s culture and the quality of his character resonated with players.
Iowa Western players offer condolences on Twitter.
Utility player Mitch Thompson referenced the school’s tradition of numbering each year’s teams in his tweet: “RIP Coach Hodges. The man the myth and the legend. You will be missed everyday by #Team42”
Infielder Jared Gates wrote: “Great coach and an even better guy, always had your back no matter what. Rest in peace coach Hodges, you’ll always be remembered #Team42”