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Baseball: 'It's my turn to give back,' new Wilsonville coach Bryn Card says

Shoulder injury jump-starts dugout career for former Henley star


by: UTAH ATHLETICS / COURTESY - First-year Wilsonville baseball coach Bryn Card, a former Henley High School star who was named state player of the year in 2005, stopped pitching after sustaining severe shoulder injuries during his time at the University of Utah.Of the thousands of pitches that flew from Bryn Card’s left arm during his baseball career, the two-out slider he threw in the third inning of a game against USC is the one he remembers vividly.

It’s the one that brought his playing days to an end.

It was May 9, 2010, and the Utah Utes were in Los Angeles for a nonleague series against the Trojans. Card, despite entering his senior season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, was on the mound.

He felt he had to be. His chance to play professional baseball was real. His future in the sport he’d been around most of his life was at stake.

“You’re chasing the draft,” says Card, who is currently in his first season as Wilsonville High School’s baseball coach. “I had been talked to and knew I was chasing that opportunity.”

But his shoulder kept him from chasing. Immediately after unleashing that third-inning slider against USC, he couldn’t lift his arm. He soon learned he had multiple tears in his rotator cuff and that his shoulder would need many months of rehabilitation.

A doctor told him he should stop pitching for good.

“The second I blew it out, the phone calls stopped,” Card says. “It’s part of the game.”

Of course, the abrupt and painful ending to Card’s playing career — which featured four stellar years at Henley High School in Klamath Falls as well as stints at Oregon State and Utah — illuminates how he landed at Wilsonville.

Card didn’t want to give up baseball altogether, so he decided to start coaching.

“It’s my turn to give back,” he says. “Coaching is right up my alley. It’s a good match for me.”

Soon after graduating from Utah in 2010, he took the helm of the program at La Pine, a Class 4A school about 30 miles southwest of Bend.

Although the Hawks went just 14-56 overall in three seasons under Card, including 11-34 in the Sky-Em League, each year they won more games than they had the previous year. Last year, Card guided them into the postseason for the first time since 2001.

When asked what he learned during his stint in Central Oregon, Card offers the abridged version of a list he says could go on forever.

“A million things,” he says. “How to coach kids, how to work with high schoolers. ‘Student-athlete’ isn’t just a term. It has to be student first, athlete second. I want them to be good citizens, good students and good people. You have to teach them how to respect themselves, respect the team, respect the program.”

Card made sure not to leave those lessons behind when he and his wife, Kelsey Tannehill, who graduated from Sherwood High School in 2005, decided to move back to the Willamette Valley.

Around the same time, the coaching vacancy at Wilsonville caught Card’s attention.

“I knew it was a prestigious school with good baseball,” he says. “Everything has worked out for us so far.”

Card replaced Matt Kosderka, who left to become an assistant coach at Willamette University, his alma mater.

During Kosderka’s 10 seasons, the Wildcats made the state playoffs eight times, reached the semifinals three times, took runner-up honors once (2011) and won two conference titles while compiling an overall record of 169-106. His players, more than a dozen of whom have gone on to play baseball in the collegiate ranks, combined to receive 19 all-state honors and 70 all-conference awards.

“Matt Kosderka did a great job setting up what a program is supposed to look like,” Card says. “I’m able to grab those reins and take it in the direction I want it to go. I have a great group of kids, I have supportive parents and I really enjoy what’s been happening so far in Wilsonville.”

For Card, his baseball education is just beginning. Indeed, his tenure with the Wildcats started less than a decade after he graduated from high school.

Under then-coach Joe Tacchini, Card was named the state player of the year as a senior in 2005 after leading Henley to back-to-back OSAA titles with a two-year record of 54-6.

Card finished his phenomenal prep career with 469 career strikeouts, a 1.88 earned-run average and a 41-7 pitching record, including 14-1 as a junior and 12-2 as a senior.

The heralded lefty then joined Oregon State, which won back-to-back College World Series national championships in 2006 and 2007.

But the Beavers’ success was bittersweet for Card, who redshirted during the first title season and pitched just one inning the next year.

Card sensed that his time would be better spent elsewhere, a harsh reality in part because his future wife would be staying in Corvallis.

“I enjoyed my time at Oregon State, but there was more opportunity for playing time at Utah,” he says. “It was one of those tough situations ... I just didn’t see as many innings in my future at OSU as I did at Utah. You’ve got to watch out for yourself.”

Transferring afforded Card the mound time he sought. He went 3-1 with 36 innings pitched and 22 strikeouts as a sophomore in 2008, tallied a team-high six wins while throwing 67 1/3 innings as the Utes’ regular weekday starter in 2009 and racked up 40 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings in a senior campaign that was ultimately derailed by his shoulder injury.

The ordeal has seemingly shaped his coaching philosophy. Card says he and Wilsonville players “put some stuff on the board” in a goal-setting session heading into the season, but now he wants them to focus on and relish each pitch, each inning, each game.

The Wildcats haven’t found their groove quite yet. They won just two of their eight preseason games, started Northwest Oregon Conference play with a two-game series sweep of Milwaukie and then lost back-to-back games against Putnam. They dropped four of their first 12 games by two runs or fewer.

Then again, last year’s team reached the 5A semifinals despite a 5-8 start.

And with a roster that features several talented returning varsity players — among them Matt Kelly, Tanner Crooks, Parker Nielsen and Ryan Howe — Card conveys optimism for what the rest of the campaign could have in store.

“Our kids are battling,” he says. “They’re getting a hold of it now. I’m happy with their effort — now we’ve just got to get the key hits and the key strikes to take the next steps.”

***

BRYN CARD FILE

Henley High School

2004 (junior): 14-1, 1.2 ERA, 128 strikeouts

2005 (senior): 12-2, 0.97 ERA, 162 strikeouts

Totals: 41-7 record, 1.88 ERA, 469 strikeouts

Oregon State University

2006: redshirt

2007: one appearance, no starts, 0-0 record, one inning, one strikeout

University of Utah

2008: 12 appearances, four starts, 3-1 record, 36 innings, 22 strikeouts

2009: 17 appearances, 12 starts, 6-2 record, 67 1/3 innings, 55 strikeouts

2010: 14 appearances, 10 starts, 2-4 record, 63 1/3 innings pitched, 40 strikeouts

La Pine High School (coach)

2011: 2-19, 1-14 in the Sky-Em; no postseason

2012: 5-18, 4-11 in the Sky-Em; no postseason

2013: 7-19, 6-9 in the Sky-Em; lost to Central in the play-in round

Totals: 14-56, 11-34 in the Sky-Em; one postseason (first since 2001)




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