Hotchkiss lost its second head sports coach last week. Jason Yantzer accepted the position of athletics director and physical education teacher for Cedaredge Middle School.
Yantzer has been head coach of the Bulldogs baseball team since 1991. Assistant Blake Carlquist will take over.
The decision was “very abrupt, very tough,” said Yantzer, who was an assistant football coach and social studies teacher at HHS. Yantzer broke the news to the baseball team following a June 6 game. “It was very emotional,” said Yantzer. “For 14 years I’ve had my heart and soul in that team.”
Yantzer said he has no foreseeable plans to coach high school sports.
Yantzer was a three-sport athlete at Eagle Valley High School and a four-year, all-conference baseball player.
In the last seven seasons, the Bulldogs have been 89-19 overall (84-24 in Class 3A) and 89-19 (69-15 3A) in the Western Slope League.
During his tenure at Hotchkiss High School, Yantzer oversaw improvements at Burns O. Drake Athletic Field, including the installation of a grass infield and sprinkler system.
In 2012, Yantzer was named the WSL Coach of the Year.
With the departure of Yantzer, assistant coach Blake Carlquist will take over as head coach. Carlquist, who bats left and throws right, was a three-time all-conference center fielder at Delta High School and played five years at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University). He was mainly an outfielder and an occasional first baseman and designated hitter. In 2009, Carlquist hit two clutch doubles, which he referred to as “a couple of lucky, timely hits,” that sent the Mavericks to their first Division II World Series.
Yantzer said he began delegating more coaching assignments to Carl-quist last season. While it wasn’t easy to let go, he knew Carlquist was up for the task. “I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to that,” said Yantzer. “Over the years I’ve learned to surround myself with good people. You do that and your program really shines.”
Carlquist, the brother of former Delta head baseball coach Casey Carl-
quist, is also an assistant football coach and will continue coaching under new head coach Mike Sirko.
Carlquist stepped in to coach the summer program, which, outside of a few more games and a possible tournament at Rangely, is almost over.
Carlquist said his main focus will be on fundamentals. “A lot of times we get kids who are very athletic, but very raw when it comes to baseball skills,” said Carlquist on Sunday as the team warmed up for a game. “It’s my job to get them to apply that ability to the game of baseball.”
“He’s going to be very missed at Hotchkiss,” said senior pitcher/center fielder Devan Rupe, one of five returning seniors. “Yantzer taught me so much about baseball, and also about life. He’s always there for the team.”
Rupe, an all-state pitcher and center fielder, received one-on-one batting coaching from Carl-quist and led the state with a .701 batting average. “He’s a really good teacher,” said Rupe.
The high school season is relatively short, said Carlquist, and there isn’t much time for a lot of one-on-one. “But definitely, whenever we see something that stands out in a kid that might really put them over the edge, we like to get them one-on-one and try to get them to that position.”
Yantzer said he will continue to follow the team. While it will be difficult to make the games, he said he’ll be there to watch whenever possible. “I owe it to the kids,” said Yantzer. “They still have a giant piece of my heart.”
“We’re obviously going to miss him around the park,” said Carlquist, “but he’s put a lot of baseball knowledge into these kids, so he’s left me in a good spot.”