By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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Olympia-based Sandberg is coached by Eric Lane, a former three-sport star at Port Angeles High School who spent three summers playing for Wilder.
“It's going to be great,” Lane said of returning to his hometown to participate in the Firecracker Classic.
After graduating from Port Angeles in 2008, Lane moved on to play baseball at Lower Columbia College in Longview.
There, he led the Red Devils to the 2010 NWAACC Championship and was chosen as the conference's MVP.
He then moved up to NCAA Division I to play for Gonzaga, where he earned All-West Coast Conference honors as a junior.
After playing for the Bulldogs for two years, Lane stuck around to begin his coaching career, spending a year as a graduate assistant and helping Gonzaga win the West Coast Conference championship in 2013.
He then returned to Lower Columbia College where he just finished his first season an assistant coach.
“I can definitely see that for him,” Wilder senior team head coach Mike Politika, who was a Wilder assistant when Lane played for the area team, said of Lane getting into coaching.
“Eric was a very hard worker and had a great baseball mind.”
Lane is in his first year as a head coach for Sandberg Baseball, which is helmed by Jared Sandberg, the nephew of Hall of Famer and current Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
It's Lane's first head coaching gig, and he admits there has been a learning curve.
“It's been great to me so far,” he said. “I'm still learning. Obviously, this game will keep teaching you for your whole life.
“I've had my mistakes, but I'm learning.”
Lane has fond memories of his time with Wilder.
“I still talk to some of the guys I played with,” Lane said.
“It's really tight-knit, which is one of the great things about Wilder.”
One of the things he is looking forward to most is being at Civic Field again.
“I never really took it for granted,” Lane said, “but after seeing some of the fields we play on . . . [Civic Field] is top-notch. The city does a great job with it.
“I'm excited for our kids to play there.”
Lane will have the chance to match wits with his former coach “Poli” when Sandberg plays the Wilder senior team Friday night a 7 p.m.
“Politika is a great hire for them. I have a lot of respect for him,” Lane said.
“It's going to be a great battle. You always know Wilder is going to play the right way.”
At Lower Columbia, Lane is the first base coach and he works with the Red Devils' catchers.
“I never was a catcher,” he said. “But I've picked some things up along the way, and my brother [Matt] was a catcher.”
Another of his duties is running camps for the school, which keeps him busy (“It's kind of a full-time job, but it doesn't pay full-time,” Lane said with a laugh.), but he hopes this will be the beginning of a long baseball coaching career.
“I'll never make a lot of money, but to make a decent living doing this would be great,” Lane said.
“I'm just riding it out. I hope to stay in the baseball world.”
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.