Hometown Report

Special K: After 38 years, a Sac City coach gets ready for one last day in the sun

Sac City softball coach Tim Kiernan gets doused after a win this past weekend.
Sac City softball coach Tim Kiernan gets doused after a win this past weekend. The Express

Tim Kiernan doesn’t really age.

He may season a little, but he never really tires like most of us mortals.

Decades of sun exposure are clear on Kiernan’s cheeks and ears of a man who has long basked in his element of coaching softball. And maybe that’s the secret.

Is Tim K really just solar-powered? He goes, and goes and goes.

But the sun is setting on his warp-speed coaching career. Kiernan has headed the program at Sacramento City College with numbingly great success since 1981, with a 12-year break mixed in to try his hand in another sport; he won there, too.

This is his final season at Sac City as a teacher, coach and institution. He admits, finally, to tiring a bit. Thirty-seven years in teaching, athletic administration and year-round coaching will wear on anyone’s engine.

Kiernan has another team headed to the California State Community College Final Four, the state tournament in Bakersfield, and he will coach with every ounce of competitive fiber. The Panthers seek their fifth state championship. Their existing state haul total is already the most for any Northern California program.

Even when Kiernan took a break from 1998-2010, he didn’t completely throttle down. While taking a break from Softball, Kiernan headed the Sac City women’s golf program, winning more the 800 matches in 15 seasons, punctuated by an 84-1 state championship team in 2009.

“I love coaching,” Kiernan said.

Kiernan is all about player development, moving student-athletes on to four-year programs via scholarship by the bus load, and about scoring more runs than the other team. There’s a reason someone keeps score. You play to win the game (in our best Herman Edwards coaching voice).

“That never gets old,” Kiernan said of the taste of victory.

Kiernan’s primary passion is family. He speaks glowingly of his wife of 46 years, Debbie. Calls her “a saint.”

Kiernan has been married to her and coaching. It will soon be her time, full-time. Kiernan also mentions his grown kids. They grew up on Sac City diamonds and golf links, the benefit of being a career coach.

And he has a young grandson in Southern California who is into soccer, baseball and anything sporty. Kiernan proudly shows him off on his gallery of cell pictures. The kid will soon receive golf clubs from Grandfather K.

Kiernan has spent a lifetime with practice sessions, road trips, dragging the infield, locking up the shop. It’ll soon be someone else’s task.

“How many times were the last two people leaving here you and me?” Kiernan asked his old friend and decades-long Sac City athletic department colleague Paul Carmazzi the other day.

“A lot!” Carmazzi said, adding, “Hey, I’m not ready for Tim to retire.”

Kiernan’s softball programs throughout the years towered over the region, and certainly over Northern California. His teams put a dent into the overwhelming domination of the Southern California powers.

He discovered diamonds in the rough, recruited them, coached them up, unleashed them in softball battle, and then bid them fond farewells before they stormed through innings at major college programs – and some later as professionals.

Kiernan has won more than 1,100 games as Panthers softball coach. He coached three state championship clubs, and reached the state finals seven other times.

He has coached kids who needed athletics as a release, or a chance to graduate from college. He has coached students who needed softball to escape the horrors of their shot-up high school campuses from lost souls with a gun and an ax to grind. He has coached girls who were supremely motivated in class and with a glove or bat in their hands.

And Kiernan coached perhaps the area’s two greatest players: outfielder Chenita Rogers in the 1980s out of Burbank High School (she still holds the Sac City single-season batting average record of .608 from 1985) and pitcher Amy Windmiller from Mira Loma in the early 1990s (she struck out a program-record 365 in 1992 with a program-record 0.07 ERA for a 51-3 team that finished No. 1 in the country).

“A lot of great, great players here,” Kiernan said.

Kiernan was recruited away from Rio Americano High as a coach by Sac City athletic director Dick Pierucci, who wanted a relentless leader to help elevate women’s athletics in an era when women’s sports were in the shadows.

Kiernan’s first season at Sac City was in 1981. The work went beyond trying to find players. Sac City played in what amounted to a sand lot then. Dirt and bad grass everywhere. The field on campus today is a gem.

The field may soon get lights through bonded Los Rios Community College District funds. Here’s an idea: Let Kiernan be the first to flip those lights on. Then name the field after him.

Kiernan would downplay this, of course. He is focused on the immediate task at hand: one final weekend of a season that included challenges that could not be located in a box score. One of them was tarping the home field 37 times due to wet weather, anything to save the field, to keep games on the schedule.

Since 1981, Sac City softball has won 28 league championships and reached the playoffs 35 times. This run included 12 years of success by Kiernan’s first successor, Bob Magloire.

“Everything has to go just right to win it all,” Kiernan said. “It’s not easy.”

He added, “To do this right, you have to spend a lot of time – every day, year-round. Nonstop recruiting. I’m tired when I get home now. And if you don’t work extra hard, someone else will, all summer long.”

Kiernan last team resonates, too. The Panthers are 33-9. They eliminated Shasta and Big 8 rival Sierra in NorCal playoff rounds at home.

Sac City is batting .348 as a team with 22 home runs and 291 runs scored. Liz Caffero, Morgan Conner, Jordyn Farren and Rylee Retzer have each driven in 30 or more runs. Danielle Rees, Mara Range and Rachel Gordon have combined to strike out 269 batters as a 1-2-3 pitching attack.

Sac City opens the state tournament Thursday against Mt. Sac of Walnut.

Kienan doesn’t just like his chances. He loves them. And the more they win, the longer he can stay in the sun on the ball field. One last time.

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.