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Posts Tagged ‘Denny Zylstra’

Denny Zylstra, planning some shenanigans.

Denny Zylstra is one of the true big-timers in the history of Coupeville athletics.

His runs as an athlete, coach, and die-hard supporter have been well-documented, and he has been a member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame for some time.

Today, though, thanks to Charlie Burrow, we have a story about a young Denny which I hadn’t previously heard.

One day in the spring of 1958, the Coupeville High School baseball team was returning from a game in Port Townsend aboard the PT-Keystone ferry.

The players were still in uniform because the county stadium where we played in downtown PT didn’t have showers – the team suited up at the Coupeville school, then went by bus to Keystone and walked aboard the ferry.

At that time the PT ferry dock was further north than the current dock and only about a block from the stadium, so CHS saved having to pay the fare for the bus by having the team walk aboard.

Anyway, at some point after we departed PT, someone dared Denny Zylstra (CHS ’58), the team’s leading pitcher, and prankster, to jump off the ferry while it was underway.

He said he’d do it for $35.

So, when enough pledges were raised from players and supporters to meet his price, he began to strip off his uniform preparatory to making the plunge.

But, unfortunately (or, fortunately for Denny) a member of the ferry crew who’d gotten wind of the proceedings intervened and warned us that if he jumped, they’d be calling the sheriff and Denny would be arrested when we arrived at Keystone.

So much for that idea.

PS — Don’t remember who won the ball game.

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CHS grad Natalie (Slater) Maneval congratulates her college softball coach, Denny Zylstra, for being inducted into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame in 2015. (Photo courtesy Maneval)

One of the true legends of Wolf Nation has passed away, but his memory and impact will last forever.

Denny Zylstra, a 1958 graduate of Coupeville High School, was a three-sport star for the Wolves (football, basketball, baseball) who continued as an active athlete into his 40’s.

He played competitive football until he was 37, basketball until he was 45, and never really gave up softball.

Zylstra made his diamond debut when he was just eight years old, and played for an adult team during his high school days.

Over the years, he played softball in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Spain, Italy and across America.

This included playing in state tournaments in Virginia, California and Washington, and sponsoring and pitching one of his teams to second-place at state when he was a 41-year-old whippersnapper.

When he wasn’t playing, Zylstra and wife Marcia, his high school sweetheart, were huge Coupeville High School sports fans, attending numerous games. The duo also ran the softball concession stand.

He also took the lessons learned as a player, and used them to teach the next generations.

Following in the footsteps of Mert Waller, his high school coach, and mentor, Zylstra coached multiple sports over a 50-year span, with many of those seasons here on Whidbey.

After a stint in the Navy, Zylstra began his coaching career in Virginia Beach, running a Little League team.

From there, he moved into softball, with his first stint on Whidbey coming from 1975-1985, when he coached junior (13-15) teams.

Zylstra bounced between the college and high school game in later years, working as a coach for Skagit Valley College (1986-1997, 2004-2008), Oak Harbor High School (1999-2002) and, in his final stop, back at his alma mater.

Returning to CHS in 2009, he was head coach for two seasons, and then an assistant up through his 50th and final campaign in 2012.

Mimi (Iverson) Johnson and Natalie (Slater) Maneval were Coupeville grads who played for Zylstra at Skagit Valley College, and both remember him fondly.

Denny was such a bright light everywhere he went,” Johnson said. “He had a smile and laugh that was infectious.

“His love for his players, the game, and coaching was inspiring,” she added. “I know his legacy is huge!! He will be greatly missed.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Maneval.

“He was one of the kindest men and had a very infectious smile and laugh,” she said. “I was blessed years ago to see him being inducted into the coaches hall of fame.

Denny, you will be missed by so many and you will always leave a huge impact on so many of us softball players!”

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The 1995 Skagit Valley College softball squad, which included coach Denny Zylstra

   The 1995 Skagit Valley College softball squad, with coach Denny Zylstra (red hat) and former Wolves Natalie (Slater) Maneval (middle, front) and Mimi (Iverson) Johnson (right below the #5). (Photo courtesy Maneval)

Denny Zylstra put in half a century on the softball field as a player and coach.

Now, his former players and fans are invited to join him for a celebration of his career and life this Sunday.

Careage of Whidbey, hearing that we here at Coupeville Sports had inducted Zylstra into our digital Hall o’ Fame last Sunday (https://coupevillesports.com/2015/11/08/big-games-big-careers-big-stars/), are hosting a social for him to mark the occasion.

Where: Careage of Whidbey in Coupeville (311 3rd Street)

It will be held in the main dining hall to the right after you come through the lobby.

When: Sunday, Nov. 15 @ 2:45 PM

An outstanding athlete (for decades), a CHS grad, a legendary coach at multiple levels and one of the nicest men to ever stride the diamond, Denny Zylstra more than deserves whatever honors we can bestow upon him.

If you can be there, be there. If not, send your positive brain waves his way.

Let’s make sure he knows how much he means to his town.

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Prairie legend Hailey Hammer and fellow Hall inductees Denny Zylstra (top) and, representing the 2009-2010 CHS boys' hoops squad, Hunter Hammer and Dalton Engle.

   Hailey Hammer (left) and fellow Hall inductees Denny Zylstra (top) and, from the 2009-2010 CHS boys’ hoops squad, Hunter Hammer (left) and Dalton Engle.

Hammer Time takes over the Hall.

As we celebrate the 20th class to be inducted into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, we welcome 14 prairie legends, led by the brother/sister combo of Hunter and Hailey Hammer.

Hunter, who is already stationed up top, under the Legends tab at the top of the blog, enters the Hall for a second time as part of a stellar squad.

Meanwhile, lil’ sis finally gets her due for being one of the most consistent stars I had the pleasure to cover first-hand for their entire scholastic careers.

Hailey, joined by softball guru (and CHS grad) Denny Zylstra and the 2009-2010 Wolf boys’ basketball squad, leads us off today.

She was that rarity, even in a small town, an athlete who played three sports a year all four years, while never knowing what it was like to play in a JV contest.

Hammer was a fixture on the Wolf varsity in volleyball, basketball and softball from the moment she stepped onto the CHS campus.

12 letters (and a ton of awards) later, she went out like the ultimate boss.

You couldn’t have scripted her final moment any better, even if you tried.

Playing in her final regular season softball game this past May, Hammer found her team trailing La Conner 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.

Teammates Hope Lodell and Robin Cedillo had pulled off back-to-back defensive gems in the top of the inning to keep things close, but, as the Wolves came up for their final at-bats, Hammer was far down in the lineup.

Coupeville would need a miracle to get their star slugger the swan song she so richly deserved.

And then, against all odds, it happened.

Kailey Kellner, who had only a handful of at-bats previously, legged out a triple, Cedillo got plunked and stole second, Lauren Rose dropped in an RBI single and Tiffany Briscoe reloaded the bags with a frozen rope down the line in left.

Reality started to trump fairy tale, though, as La Conner got a force at home and a pop-up and seemed on the verge of escaping with a 4-2 win.

And then Hollywood took over for good.

Bases juiced, two outs, one swing to cap her career, Hammer sent a shot off the base of the fence in center to clear the bags, win the game and cause her mom to (momentarily) lose her mind.

As she stood alone at second, the sun glimmering across the prairie over her shoulder, in the brief moment before her teammates mobbed her, a small smile played on Hailey’s lips.

She had always been a star, a quiet leader, a rock, but, in that moment, she became the kind of legend they will talk about for generations.

Her fellow inductee Zylstra spent generations on the diamond.

A 1958 CHS grad, he was a three-sport (football, basketball, baseball) star for the Wolves and continued to play most of his sports well into his 40’s.

In his post-high school days, he also began to play softball, pitching his team to second place in the state at the age of 41.

Along with playing, Zylstra put in 50 years as a softball coach, with stints at Skagit Valley College, Oak Harbor High School and, on his final go-around, back at his alma mater.

A straight-shooter and one of the nicer guys I’ve known on the sports beat, Denny could go in as a player or as a contributor (he manned the concession booth for CHS softball and was a frequent presence at Wolf sporting events of all kinds), but, today, we honor him for his coaching.

He touched the lives of countless athletes, inspiring and teaching them, and his impact on Whidbey Island sports will be felt for decades to come.

Joining the duo is perhaps the most underrated CHS sports team ever, the 2009-2010 boys’ basketball squad.

Quirks of fate prevented them from getting a chance to raise a banner in the gym, but that shouldn’t take anything away from their season of excellence.

The Wolves went 16-5 that year, finishing second in the 1A/2A Cascade Conference at 9-3.

Along the way they gave league champ King’s (11-1) its only conference loss in a 65-64 thriller, went 3-0 against Island rivals and were an especially impressive 7-1 on the road.

Coupeville not only swept a two-game series from league rival South Whidbey, but beat the big city boys as well, knocking off Oak Harbor 66-61.

Which is why the Wildcats probably now refuse to schedule the Wolves…

Averaging just a hair under 61 points a game, Coupeville opened their season with a 50-point savaging of Darrington.

The Wolves won eight games by double-digits and closed the regular season on an 8-1 tear before having their only truly cold-shooting night of the season in a loser-out playoff opener against Nooksack Valley.

That unexpected loss prevented CHS from putting together a deep playoff run, but what came before more than makes those Wolves worthy of remembrance.

So, together again, as a team, they enter our little hall, ready to run and gun one more time.

Welcome to the stage:

Randy King (coach)
Jason Bagby
Chad Brookhouse
Dalton Engle
Ben Hayes
Hunter Hammer
Erik King
Tyler King
Nevin Miranda
Ian Smith
Tim Walstad
JD Wilcox

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