Along with fundamentals like fielding and batting, baseball players at University High School learned the value of diamond maintenance from head coach Don Ressa.
For 30 to 45 minutes after practice, the home turf was cared for with the meticulous energy of an elite landscaping crew. The routine resulted in one of the most respected baseball venues in the region and served as a reminder of the importance of effort and responsibility on Ressa’s priority list.
“People knew that the U-Hi field was the best maintained field in the league,” said Jon Spear, a two-year letter winner and All Greater Spokane League pick in 1999. “It was part of that work ethic that coach Ressa instilled.”
Ressa led the varsity baseball squad at University for 28 years, part of a tenure at the school that goes back to 1971. Earlier this year, Ressa announced that he would retire as a teacher, though continue his work as an assistant coach in football and baseball as well as the school’s events manager.
University Athletic Director Ken VanSickle said Ressa will continue to be an integral part of the school, even if he is not on campus every day.
“Don wants University to be the best it can be,” VanSickle said. “His work here has never been about him, it’s about promoting the image of the school. For 40 years, he has dedicated himself to ensuring that University High School is a wonderful place and that people respect it in the community.”
A graduate of Gonzaga Prep, Ressa was an all-league baseball player who was part of a state American Legion championship team in 1967. He continued his baseball career at Whitworth where he earned his undergraduate degree and later a Master’s in Fine Arts. At University, he has taught health and fitness, history and art.
In the classroom, Ressa takes the same approach as he does on the baseball diamond or football field, encouraging students to work diligently and never fall back on excuses.
“I don’t talk about getting A’s or B’s,” Ressa said. “I talk about doing your best. The most important thing is learning how to work.”
Former Titans like Spear say that Ressa was known for holding everyone to the same standard.
“It didn’t matter if you were a player drafted into the major leagues or on the junior varsity, it was the same,” Spear said. “There was respect and order to things. You understood that it was important to have character and set an example.”
While Ressa’s list of accomplishments at University include honors like being elected to the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 and leading teams to the playoffs over 13 consecutive years, he said the most rewarding part of being a coach and teacher is “teaching kids character and citizenship and having them be successful in life.”
“It means a lot to me when students say thanks for all you’ve helped me with,” Ressa said.