And while Rich Sorensen of Porterville College in the California Community College Athletic Association might not have been the original choice as the team’s head coach this season, general manager Cory Olafson is looking forward to seeing what the team’s new, new bench boss has to offer.
Technically, things had moved in that direction to a certain extent anyway: the team had opted to promote assistant coach Tanner Spencer to the position of head coach after last season, a move that was set in stone as late as last Christmas.
Spencer – a former pitcher with the Express – had been with the team since 2013 in one capacity or another and was looking forward to taking over the helm from long-time head coach Michael Hunt.
The situation then changed.
“We had to take a different direction with Tanner. He was super excited to come back but we knew there was an outside scenario that this could happen,” said Olafson.‘This’ was the Minot State University Beavers deciding to hire Spencer as a full-time assistant coach, creating an immigration snafu that will keep him in the United States this summer and, obviously, prevent him from returning to Moose Jaw to coach.
“In the baseball world, it’s a great stepping stone for Tanner for sure,” Olafson said. “He’s probably going to be able to take some big steps in his baseball career and he has to make decisions that are the best for him and that’s great.”
Once the news became official, Olafson and the Express kicked the coaching search into high gear, first reaching out to one of their California connections in Eric Solberg of Fresno City College, the same school Express pitcher Nick Falco attends.
Solberg put Olafson in contact with an old teammate and friend from Fresno State, Rich Sorensen. A few conversations and some planning later, and Sorensen was the Express’ new guy in the dugout.
“It sure beats throwing an ad in the coaching journals, where you don’t know exactly what you’re getting,” Olafson said. “But when it comes to a guy we’ve been dealing with for a long time, it certainly gives me some piece of mind that he comes on Eric’s recommendation.”
Signing a new head coach this close to opening day could have been problematic when it came to recruiting, but Spencer’s work in that direction left the team in solid shape.
“Tanner had done the bulk of the recruiting, so it could have been a lot worse if it had happened at a different time,” Olafson explained. “There will be some holes to fill as we push into the season, but it’s easier to fill five or six holes instead of 15.
“Things might be signed and locked down and we might have a full roster, but there are going to be injuries or summer school or having to get a job… every year it’s the same thing and there are a few holes to plug the closer you get to the season.”
That’s where Sorensen will come in, as his experience in Porterville and knowledge of players from the CCCAA will help fill those areas as necessary.
“He’s been coaching down there for a very long time, so he has some connections and he’s plugging up some of these holes with his guys from California,” Olafson said.
“It’s getting tight now, the end of next month will be here before we know it and the new guys will be here, so we’re looking forward to getting going.”