Tholen having time of his life coaching Saints at JUCO World Series after break
Harry Tholen has attended 11 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series in various capacities.
The capacity in which he’s serving this year may be the one he enjoys the most.
“I can almost say this is the best trip,” Tholen said Thursday night as he assumed his seat behind home plate to scout Thursday night’s Western Nevada College-Howard (Texas) College game.
After 25 years as the head baseball coach at Santa Fe (Fla.) College, Tholen is back on the Saints’ bench — and enjoying every minute of it.
Tholen was the head coach at Santa Fe from 1982-2006, which included a trip to the JUCO World Series in 1985. At the end of a 38-year coaching career, which included stints at three junior colleges, he hung up the reins three years ago.
He still runs the fitness center at the college, a position from which he will retire next March.
Tholen served for seven years as president of the National Junior College Athletic Association and was a Hall of Fame inductee. He still serves on the Hall of Fame committee. In those capacaties, he’s been an annual visitor to the JUCO national tournament for a decade.
Last fall Saints head coach Johnny Wiggs asked Tholen if he’d be willing to serve as a volunteer assistant this season.
“I wouldn’t have asked him to come back if I didn’t think he could offer something to the club,” Wiggs said.
Wiggs was an assistant coach under Tholen from
1992-95, which factored heavily in Tholen’s decision in January to accept the position.
He knew Wiggs had a good squad this season. Making a return trip to Grand Junction has fulfilled a season-long dream for Tholen.
“I basically act as a bench coach,” Tholen said. “I told Johnny it’s a lot easier to offer suggestions.”
Wiggs decided before the season to manage from the bench instead of the third-base coaching box for the first time. Having Tholen by his side has proved beneficial.
“I like to bounce ideas off him,” Wiggs said.
In reality, Tholen does a lot more.
“The guys have really enjoyed having him,” Wiggs said.
He’s helped with the catchers. He’s a part-time business manager for the team. He even throws a little batting practice.
“At age 66, I can still throw it,” Tholen said.
“He loves it,” Wiggs said.
As for working with 18- to 20-year-olds again, “They keep me young,” Tholen said.
It’s been a win-win-win situation for all involved. The players like and respect him, Wiggs loves having him on the bench beside him and, after a three-year hiatus, Tholen thoroughly enjoys being on the field again.