Coach Hageman Passes Away

March 20, 2007

Long-time assistant baseball coach Bill Hageman has passed away. For more than a decade, Hageman served as the Panthers' pitching coach and was a fixture in the Middlebury dugout. He was attending practice this spring, until finally succumbing to a battle with cancer.

The following is an article that recently appeared in the Rutland Herald:

Hageman's love was baseball, kids

March 14, 2007
By Tom Haley, Herald Staff

Bill Hageman was synonymous with baseball around Middlebury. Whether it was as the Addison County American Legion baseball coach or Bob Smith's assistant coach at Middlebury College, Hageman loved and lived the game.

And the game won't be quite the same anymore as Hageman passed away Monday night at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer.

"Coach Hageman did more for Addison County baseball than anyone else I know," said former Addison County Legion baseball player Ryan Boutwell. "Whether it was coaching Little League prior to assuming his Legion job in the mid nineties or volunteering with the Middlebury College team, he really lived and breathed baseball.

"He genuinely cared about his players and I had first hand experience with his generosity. Whether it was helping a kid obtain a summer job or giving a recommendation to a college coach, he was always willing to help."

Boutwell moved away from Middlebury, but corresponded with Hageman a couple of years ago. He discovered his former coach harbored an intense pride about how well his former players were doing with their lives.

"When I think of some of the best times of my youth, it was playing Legion baseball in the summer and much of that is due to coach Hageman."

Appropriately, a memorial service will be held Sunday at Kirk Alumni Center on campus at 1 p.m.

"Bill loved being involved with the college," Middlebury College Sports Information Director Brad Nadeau said.

Rutland's Steve Shortle attributed much of his success last season as a Middlebury College freshman pitcher to Hageman. Shortle had always thrown a four-seam fastball and Hageman convinced him to throw a two-seamer.

Shortle blossomed, earning a 5-2 record last spring and a spot in the rotation. He said Hageman's advice paid off with much more movement on his pitch.

Rutland Post 31 manager Ron Fairbanks thought it odd when Hageman was not present for a recent American Legion baseball meeting.

"He always showed up at every meeting," Fairbanks said.

"He was a great guy and we always had a great time when we played against him."

Rutland Post 31 and Addison County used to be in the same division and met frequently.

"It was a great rivalry," Fairbanks said. "Bill always said we should start playing each other and get it going again. He was just a nice all-around guy."

Hageman had a special relationship with Middlebury College head baseball coach Bob Smith. He served as one of Smith's assistants in the spring and then, for a few seasons, Smith helped him out with the Addison County program during the summer.

"We did that for three or four years," Smith said. "I would be the head coach and then he would turn around and be the head coach. It was fun. He helped me a lot.

"I would turn the pitching over to him. He was a lover of baseball and extremely knowledgeable. It was a nice situation."

It was an emotional time Monday night when Smith gathered Middlebury College players to give them the news.

"There were a lot of tears and a lot of emotion," Smith said. "But the kids rallied around each other. They really pulled together."

The Panthers went back to practice Tuesday evening after taking Monday off.

"That's just what he would have wanted. He would have said, 'Get out there and practice. Don't worry about me,'" Smith said. "He was extremely giving.

"The whole world of Vermont baseball will miss him. He will be sorely missed."

The Panthers' Forbes Field is one of the nicer settings in college baseball with its electric scoreboard and panoramic view of the Green Mountains. But when the Panthers play their home opener April 6 against Wesleyan, something will be missing from the gorgeous little park. And Bill Hageman's absence will be felt throughout the season.