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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Rex

Fix Your Damn Hat! A Tribute To My Friend Rand Rasmussen

Back in 2009, I found myself one day sitting at my desk contemplating my entire life. I was 28 years old, had sold hundreds of houses already, made a lot of money, lost all of it, and I seemed to be chasing a life I couldn’t even clarify. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want what I had. I knew I wanted to be more than a guy that sells real estate.

I started to search for deeper meaning in my life. I began to branch out in the material I read, the people I interacted with, and what I did with my spare time. I decided to get involved in charities where I could think about others more than myself. I dabbled a little bit in the Big Brother Big Sister program. I volunteered for a few months at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis. But none of it felt right.

So, as I sat at my desk that day, I had a thought, I thought about how I always wanted to coach high school baseball. What if I just reached out and asked a head coach if I could join the staff. An hour later, I had googled which were the top programs and I had fired off emails to the two schools that seemed to be winning the most; Lone Peak and the Bingham Miners.

The head coach at Bingham, Joe Sato, responded first and the next day I was in his office essentially being interviewed for a job. Coaching high school is funny though, you don’t make money. I’m not saying you don’t make a lot of money, and I’m saying literally it’s a volunteer position unless you are the head coach or top assistant. And even then you only make a few thousand dollars per year. Thankfully Joey liked my brother Matt whom he had played against years earlier and he gave me the job. I was officially the 9th coach on the roster!

The part of the job I wasn’t ready for was the commitment that it meant being a baseball coach at a school like Bingham. I went to Murray High School and so I assumed being a coach was a 12-15 hour per week commitment. I was not prepared for the 40 hours per week these coaches were all putting in to make sure their kids had the best baseball experience anyone could ever ask for.

As I left the interview Coach Sato told me, “I’ll see ya tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 7:00 am here in the gym!” That’s when I knew I was in for more than I had bargained for. The real treat was still to come that next day.

I showed up with my hat tilted somewhat to the side, wearing some baggy sweat pants and a t-shirt. I was nervous but excited to meet the other coaches. That’s when one of them, a grizzly older man, yelled at me, “Fix your Damn Hat! On this team, we show professionalism and you look like a punk.” That was my introduction to the Legend himself, Rand Rasmussen.

What I knew at that moment is if I didn’t fix my damn hat I was going to have the shortest high school coaching career in history. What I didn’t know is that the man that had just scared the shit out of me was a 4-time state champion girls basketball coach, a future 6-time state champion baseball coach and that one day he would become one of the most important people in my life.

Over the next four months, Rand and I butted heads almost daily. Whether it was because I wouldn’t stay off my cell phone, because I couldn’t seem to hit a fungo to save my life, or because I was acting more like the 15-year-old kids I was coaching then a member of the coaching staff. Little by little though this man was chipping away at the boy in the crooked hat and was helping to create a man.

In life, people seem to show up when we need them. When we are willing to look inward and listen to that voice that says, “you need to fix some things.” The universe seems to provide. I know that I was destined to end up at that time on that team to meet this man. Over the next three years, a crazy thing happened... As I grew up and began to mature, Rand began to soften up towards me. We knew pretty quickly we liked each other, if only because we could see so much of each other in ourselves.

Rand and I began to talk a lot about baseball and life and what it truly meant to live a life worth living. Rand knew he’d never have riches in this life, choosing instead to give his time and his life to mentor, coach, and help thousands of high school kids literally. Such an intuitive man and such a hard worker, no doubt he could have amassed all the fortunes he wanted had he chosen to go down those roads. But he never needed any of that, he had found his purpose and calling and he did it better than anyone.

One dream Rand did have that was going to be tough to achieve was a lifelong mission to go visit every major league baseball stadium. When we met in 2009 I believe he was 9 or 10 short. Selfishly I knew that if I planned some fun trips I could get extra time with Rand and soak up his wisdom on life. So I began a 5-6 year tradition of booking a fun trip to go visit these stadiums that were still on the list.

We visited Cleveland and Pittsburgh for a day night double header. We hit the football Hall of Fame in Canton on the same day we crossed off Cincinnati. We flew to Oakland and caught a playoff game in LA. Last year he only had 2 stadiums left to visit so of course we booked a trip and finished off the last 2 stadiums in Philadelphia and then a Nationals game in Washington D.C. These were some of the best trips and times of my life.

Rand retired from coaching and teaching and this past May he called me to sell his house so that he could move up to Oregon to be closer to his son Matt and his grandkids. A man that had spent a lifetime taking care of others could finally relax a little and enjoy the Pacific coast. Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair and it can sometimes be a little cruel. Not even two weeks after moving up to Oregon, his cancer that he had been battling off for years returned and this time it was here to stay.

Even though that was just a few months ago, it seems like an eternity since we signed those papers and I watched my friend move away. I got the text this morning thatRand’s earthly life had come to an end. I don’t think I’ve truly processed it yet and I probably won’t for some time.

Rand, I’m so grateful that I had the chance to come up to Salem a few weeks ago and see you one last time. To see the love in your eyes and know that our friendship was as special to you as it is to me. I’m sorry we never got to Duke for a basketball game but I’m so grateful for all the adventures we had. You took on a role in my life that I needed and you took a chance on a kid that you didn’t have to.

Proud to have known you, Rand. Proud to call you a dear friend. Your legacy lives on in the 1000’s of lives you touched and the lives that all of us will continue to touch. I ask you one thing as you watch down from Heaven on all of us… If you ever look down and see that I’ve veered off my path, please tell me in your own way to “Straighten my damn hat!” Love you, Rand.


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