Jake Valentine is now an assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at Washington State University
The Northwest Baseball Coaches Association Convention always has some of the best minds of the game on stage to give expert presentations to coaches at every level of the sport.
This past weekend, the convention featured a former Vancouver athlete who is now an assistant coach in the Pac-12 Conference.
Jake Valentine shined at Skyview High School in the early 2000s. After his college career ended, he wasn’t exactly sure he was going to get into coaching. One season as an assistant at his old high school is all it took for him to realize he never wanted to leave the game.
More than a decade later, he is now an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Washington State Cougars.
“It was something I couldn’t pass up,” said Valentine, who had been an assistant with the University of Portland for the past seven seasons, including one year as the associate head coach. “It’s been a dream come true. I’m in the right place, and I love it.”
Now, he will be working with the Cougars, hoping to find the combination of talent and character to invite to Pullman.
He will also look back on his own experiences, to remind all players that there is a spot for them somewhere, as long as they have a love for the game.
Valentine graduated from Skyview in 2004. His college career started at Tacoma Community College. Then he had choices to make.
“Go to the place you’re going to have the best experience,” Valentine recommends. “I had a handful of Division-I walk-on opportunities. I chose to go to D-II and have my school paid for. It was the best experience I could ask for.”
Valentine excelled at Hawaii Pacific University, earning a communications degree. He set the single-season school record for runs scored in 2008.
“It’s just like anything else in life. If you have a passion for something and work for something, success is just around the corner,” he said. “You have to stay with it.”
He took that advice in his coaching career, too.
He said he “lucked out and got the job” after interviewing for a job at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas. Interestingly, the job would not start until the next academic year so in the meantime he returned to Vancouver to become an assistant at his old school.
“What finally hit me, in regard to ‘You’ve got to do this,’ it was that spring helping out at Skyview High School, getting to work with the kids day in and day out, being able to be that person for them,” Valentine said. “I finished that spring, and I said, ‘This is 100 percent what I want to do.’”
The life of an assistant coach in sports is a journey. From Stephen F. Austin, he went to UC Riverside for a few years, then Santa Clara for a few seasons. Eventually, he headed back to the Northwest, taking an assistant job at the University of Portland.
Now, he’s a Washington State Cougar.
It all started in Vancouver, though.
“I can’t say enough about what Skyview baseball meant to me,” Valentine said, recalling that everyone from the school principal — Ed Little at the time — to teachers and coaches all supported athletics.
Valentine played for Tad Thompson.
“He shaped me into the man I wanted to be, not just the type of player,” Valentine said. “He never gave an inch. There was a demand, an expectation. You met that, or you didn’t make the team. He was tough, but I needed that in my life.”
The love for baseball and a passion for hard work has led Valentine and his family to Pullman. His wife Andree is the real athlete of the family, Jake said, a world-class gymnast. They have two children, Brooks, their 3-year-old son, and Colbie, their 1-year-old daughter.
The Northwest Baseball Coaches Association Convention, held in Portland each year, had 18 guest speakers over the three-day event.
One proudly wore his Washington State colors on the stage on Friday, but deep down, he is always a member of the Skyview Storm.
Note: One of the sponsors of the Northwest Baseball Coaches Association is the West Coast League, and the convention is owned by the Southwest Washington Baseball Group, owners of the Ridgefield Raptors.
“For us, it’s important that we always give back to the community. This is an event that supports high school coaches so they can develop young men into great baseball players and great humans,” said Gus Farah, general manager of the Raptors.
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