April 20, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. - - The legacy of Steve Hertz will forever be a part of Gonzaga University baseball with the unveiling of his bronze bust in an intimate ceremony prior to Friday's official dedication of Patterson Baseball Complex and Washington Trust Field.
Hertz' bust is displayed in the courtyard area of the new home of Bulldog baseball for all to see.
One of the most popular employees in school history, Hertz played baseball for the Bulldogs, was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs, served as head coach for 24 seasons and for the past four years has been the director of athletic relations, spearheading the fundraising efforts for the new baseball facility.
"Some benefactors, led by Bob Hamacher, proposed we do a bronze bust of Coach Hertz to be displayed at Patterson Baseball Complex and Washington Trust Field," Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said. "The administration approved the idea. Steve Hertz has touched the lives of as many Bulldogs - as a teacher, a coach, a friend and, most recently, as an administrator - as anyone who has ever worn a Bulldog uniform or represented Bulldog athletics. He re-defined what it means to be a Zag and instilled it in all of us."
On hand for the unveiling were his wife Vicki; daughters Sarah, Christine, Heather, Gretchen and Jessica; son Stephen, and his parents Bill and Ruth along with other invited family and friends.
The bronze bust sculpture was created by Dennis Harrington, owner/artist of Planet Bronze, Montana's premiere contemporary western art gallery located in Bozeman. It took approximately six months to finish the project.
Hertz was the dean of West Coast Conference baseball coaches when he completed his 24th season in the dugout in 2003, giving way to current head coach Mark Machtolf. Hertz became Gonzaga's director of athletic relations, a position created primarily to reach out to former student-athletes and rep-involve them with their teams and their alma mater.
"Coach Hertz has done an excellent job in his new position. He relates so well to not only former student-athletes but to our current student-athletes. He'll always have a little coach in him and be able to reach out," Roth said.
Hertz graduated from Gonzaga in 1972 after three seasons on the mound for the Bulldogs, his playing days beginning what is now a 33-year association with the Bulldogs.
The winningest coach in Bulldog history, Hertz's squads posted a 637-627-6 record in his 24 seasons with the Zags. His career record of 696-689-6, which includes two seasons at the University of California-Irvine, ranked him in the top 50 among active coaches in career victories when he retired from the coaching profession.
Under his guidance, Gonzaga baseball teams competed in three different conferences and sent more than 30 players into professional baseball. The Bulldogs are currently in their 12th season as members of the West Coast Conference.
In 2001 Gonzaga won the WCC Coast Division title with a 17-13 record and advanced to the WCC Championship Series at Pepperdine University, the Bulldogs first postseason appearance since making the NCAA Tournament in 1981. The Zags won the opening game against Pepperdine with a dramatic six-run ninth inning comeback. Unfortunately the team could not use that momentum dropping the final two games to the Waves and missing a chance at the school's first NCAA appearance in 20 years. Gonzaga's season was highlighted by one All-America selection and seven players making the All-West Coast Conference team. Hertz was honored as the WCC Coach of the Year, making him the first non-California school coach to win the award.
Prior to joining the West Coast Conference in 1996, Hertz guided the Bulldogs through 14 seasons as a member of the Pacific-10 Conference North. In those 14 seasons Hertz's teams compiled 30 or more wins in three seasons and twice finished second in the Pac-10 North race. In 1986, the Zags grabbed the runner-up spot and in 1989 Gonzaga led the conference race going into the final weekend before finishing second. The 1994 season witnessed the biggest turnaround in Gonzaga baseball history. The Bulldogs improved from 17 wins in 1993 to 29 wins in the 1994 season. For the efforts of his team, Hertz was named the Pac-10 North Coach of the Year.
Winning Coach of the Year honors was nothing new for Hertz, who compiled five such honors in his 26-year coaching career. In fact in a four year span Hertz won three of those awards, two as the head coach of the Bulldogs in their final season as a member of the Northern Pacific Conference (NorPac). Hertz' first such honor was bestowed upon him in 1978 following his rookie season as coach of the Bulldogs. Hertz guided Gonzaga to a 33-14 record and their best-ever run in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga came just one win away from earning a trip to the College World Series. Having advanced into the Regional Finals with wins over Washington State University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the Bulldogs needed to defeat Arizona State University just once in two games to punch their ticket to the CWS. However, all-conference shortstop Bill Hainline twisted an ankle the day prior to the ASU game and was forced to watch from the dugout as Gonzaga dropped a pair of games.
Hertz left Gonzaga after the 1978 season to rebuild the UC-Irvine program. In two years he took the Anteaters from 22-37 to 37-25 and a second place finish behind eventual national champion Fullerton State University (now Cal State Fullerton) in the Southern California Baseball Association. Again, Hertz was rewarded with the league's Coach of the Year award.
In 1981, Hertz returned to Gonzaga and guided the Bulldogs to their most successful season in school history. That year Gonzaga posted a 48-21 record and advanced to the NCAA Regionals in the final season of the NorPac. Hertz was named Coach of the Year as the 48 wins were the most ever by a team from the Pacific Northwest.
A native of Southern California, Hertz grew up on the outskirts of Los Angeles playing his high school baseball at Taft High School. A standout third baseman in high school, Hertz began his collegiate career at Pierce College in Los Angeles where he was behind future Major League All-Star Doug DeCinces. Hertz decided to try his hand at pitching and posted a 3-2 record his freshman season at Pierce College. He transferred to Gonzaga as a sophomore and finished his 3-year Bulldog career with a 19-8 record being named All-Big Sky Conference as a senior in 1972. Hertz still remains in the Bulldog pitching record book ranking in the career top 10 in wins (19), strikeouts (226) and shutouts (7).
Hertz signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Twins in 1972 and played three seasons of professional baseball, his first season for Charlotte, N.C., in the Western Carolina League, his second season with Ft. Lauderdale in the Florida State League and his final season with Lynchburg, VA., in the Carolina League.
Following his professional career, Hertz began his coaching career at Cal Prep High School in Los Angeles in 1974. He entered the collegiate coaching ranks in 1976 as an assistant coach at Gonzaga under Koentopp. Following Koentopp's resignation at the end of the 1977 season, Hertz was named the head coach of the Bulldogs and has never looked back.
Today, the name Steve Hertz became immortalized in Bulldog annals.