There’s an old adage that Emerald Ridge High baseball coach Larry Marshall likes to use.
“It’s about playing the game the right way,” he always says.
The right way. For Marshall that’s a simple task, one only rooted from a coach whose career began back in 1974 as an assistant at Washington State University.
Over the last four decades, Marshall has become a source of knowledge for many in the area, always looking to push the talent wherever he’s at into one of the state’s best programs.
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It started with Charles Wright (1976-81), where Marshall led the Tarriers to three Class 1A state titles. After taking the challenge of starting a baseball program at Spanaway Lake (1982-83), Marshall led the Sentinels to their first Pierce County League title.
In 1983, Marshall started his 19-year career coaching Pacific Lutheran University baseball, where he became the program’s all-time winningest coach with 317 wins before he retired in 2002.
It’s not about putting others down, it’s not about trying to get into everybody’s head. It’s about playing the game, and playing the game as hard as you can, and doing it the same every day.
Emerald Ridge coach Larry Marshall
“Very few programs up here play the game the right way,” Marshall said. “It’s not about putting others down, it’s not about trying to get into everybody’s head. It’s about playing the game, and playing the game as hard as you can, and doing it the same every day.”
Many people have fallen under Marshall’s coaching umbrella over the years.
But none have stuck more than Bonney Lake coach Mike Olson.
He’s the first person to get me thrown out of a game. In all my years of coaching, he’s still the only person to get me thrown out for hitting a batter.
Larry Marshall when remembering Mike Olson’s playing days at PLU
“He’s the first person to get me thrown out of a game,” Marshall often jokes about Olson when first asked about his protégé. “In all my years of coaching, he’s still the only person to get me thrown out for hitting a batter.”
It’s been 20 years since Olson stepped onto a PLU mound, but of all memories, that one has withstood the test of time — an amount of time that has afforded Marshall a wealth of knowledge.
He’s got an immense (amount of) baseball-knowledge. I mean, you can sit for hours and talk to that guy just talking baseball.
Mike Olson on Larry Marshall
“He’s got an immense (amount of) baseball-knowledge. I mean, you can sit for hours and talk to that guy just talking baseball,” Olson said. “The man knows the game for sure. It’s just great to be around him and soaking that up.”
When Marshall first returned to coaching a few years ago, it became an automatic for both Emerald Ridge and Bonney Lake to hook up. Marshall took over the ER program with intent to do what his understudy did for Bonney Lake back when Olson started the Bonney Lake program when the school opened in the 2005-2006 school year.
“That’s the thing for me is to keep that one going (playing Emerald Ridge). I think that even if they didn’t have as good of a club, I would keep that one,” Olson said. “There’s just some relationships that you keep. The same with Sumner.”
By 2007, Bonney Lake reached the Class 3A semifinals, ultimately finishing third, the first time the Panthers placed at state. Since he started the program, Olson has accumulated a 159-91 overall record.
From the beginning, it’s been about one thing for Olson: “Playing your butts off, every day and every game.”
“He has a couple guys who play for me during the summer (Puyallup Knights). They spoke very, very highly of him,” Marshall said. “Bonney Lake is a great team — a well-coached team, as Mike (Olson) has done a great job with them.”
Next year is going to be different for both teams. There’s still too many variables that can change from here to next season.
With Emerald Ridge joining a new-look Class 4A South Puget Sound League, where 16 games of season schedule will have to be dedicated to league play, these opportunities to see nonleague games such as Bonney Lake facing Emerald Ridge — or Puyallup playing Issaquah at Safeco Field — are going to be missed.
For years, local teams have had the luxury of a unique nonleague schedule. Some of elements will still be in place. But when those opportunities do present themselves, it’s nice to see the game within the game. The moments the numbers can never show.
“I hope so. I (really) hope so, but it depends how they set things up,” Marshall said of potentially playing Bonney Lake next season. “I’d love to play Bonney Lake, because they’re a class program. Mike does a great job. He’s really developed into a tremendous coach.”
A coach founded in creating an environment the right way.