Thomas E. Cronin, president of Whitman College, praised Seachris as an "enormously dedicated and hard-working coach who has touched the lives of hundreds of Whitman athletes over the past generation."
Cronin said Seachris, 62, will continue his work as athletic director on a "year-to-year basis for the near future."
"The athletic department has enjoyed one of its best years ever," Cronin noted. "The men's and women's ski teams are national champions, the men's and women's cross country teams won Northwest Conference championships, and the men's and women's basketball teams both earned playoff berths. The men's lacrosse team won its conference championship, and the men's and women's swim teams captured more individual honors at regionals and nationals than at any time in recent memory."
Seachris, a native of Touchet, Wash., began coaching youth baseball in the 1950s, prior to his graduation from Whitman. He played both basketball and baseball for four years at Whitman, and he was an all-conference pitcher his final two seasons at the college. His coaching career, which spanned 42 years, included nearly two decades as a teacher, principal and coach at Touchet and Prescott high schools. He led Prescott to a state football title in 1975 and a second-place finish the next year.
Seachris joined the Whitman faculty in the fall of 1977 as an associate professor of physical education, head baseball coach and assistant men's basketball coach. He has served as Whitman athletic director for the past 12 years. With his coaching career at an end, Seachris said he wants to focus more time as athletic director on Whitman's transition from NAIA Division II to NCAA Division III.
"Coaching young people is something I have enjoyed tremendously, but my biggest concern right now is our move to NCAA," Seachris said. "This a very important time for our athletic program. There is a great deal of work that needs to be done over the next few years as part of the transition."
Seachris coached his final baseball game when Whitman concluded its 1995 spring season against Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. Linfield's coach, Scott Carnahan, presented Seachris with a commemorative plaque from all conference baseball coaches.
"For me it was a very emotional and sad day, and I think it was for Max, too," Carnahan said. "I've really enjoyed my association with Max. He's been one of my mentors, and he's been a leader for years in our group of coaches."
Carnahan said Seachris was known for fielding baseball teams that were both competitive and classy. "The guys who played for Max always played hard, and they always had an air of class about them. They were an extension of their coach. Max is a great competitor, but he also feels that athletics should be a positive experience, and that sportsmanship is important. His players followed his example."
"I don't think you judge the success of an athletic program by wins or losses," Carnahan added. "It has a lot to do with the value of the educational experience, and in that regard the guys who played for Max were richly rewarded."
His former players agree.
"I have nothing but positive memories of playing for Coach Seachris," said Joe Beatty, who graduated last year after earning all-conference honors as a shortstop in his final two seasons. "Granted, we didn't win any national titles, but Coach Seachris taught us lessons about life, not just about baseball. We were always learning, always having fun."
Beatty, who lives in Helena, Montana, said Seachris instilled in his players the "mentality of ballplayers. We loved the game. We played hard, and we had a great time."
Beatty, a member services counselor for Triple-A of Montana, said he and his teammates often contrasted Seachris and his low-key coaching style with the demeanor of coaches at larger schools that placed a heavier emphasis on winning. "We played against coaches who yelled and screamed constantly at their players. Those guys weren't having any fun. They weren't ballplayers. For them, it was just a job."
Chris Luttges, a two-time all-conference third baseman who graduated in 1985, said that he, too, is "really happy I played for Max. He always scheduled the tougher schools, the bigger schools, which created a challenge for us. He gave us opportunities to compete at a higher level, but he made sure we had fun doing it."
Luttges, the marketing manager of an insurance company in Denver, Colo., said players remember Seachris as a "good coach who also was a good friend and a good person. We carried our relationship outside of baseball and into the rest of our lives. He's the kind of guy you want to go back and see ten years after you've graduated. You remember Max as one of your most popular teachers."
James Anderson, an all-conference pitcher and shortstop who graduated in 1989, also appreciated Seachris's willingness to go head-to-head against larger schools. "We knew we were outmanned at times, although we never used that as an excuse," Anderson said. "We still expected to beat the Central Washingtons and the Whitworths, the schools with football programs that attracted a greater number of athletes. Max told us we had to go out there and scrap for our victories. It was the bigger schools that could rely on their talent alone."
Anderson, now an employee benefits consultant for a Seattle firm, said Seachris also paid attention to his players as people and made allowances for Whitman's academic demands, setting up a tutoring program that enabled seniors to help younger teammates.
"Max and I had a special relationship," Anderson said. "There were no special favors, but he gave me opportunities. He made me feel like I was important. Sometime you get lucky in life and find yourself surrounded by good people. For me, Max Seachris was one of those good people."
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