Elk Grove's Jeff Carlson, who led the Thundering Herd to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship this season, was today named Cal-Hi Sports' State Baseball Coach of the Year.
He becomes just the fifth area baseball coach and the first since Cordova's Guy Anderson in 1981 to receive the honor in the award's 80 years.
"Wow, you've caught me completely off-guard," Carlson said when told of the news. "That's a pretty cool honor and certainly has to be shared with my assistants, my players and my wife - she's a big part of this award."
Carlson, who was selected The Bee's Coach of the Year earlier this month, has coached 13 seasons at Elk Grove, won 313 games and five D-I section titles.
This year's team, which swept three-time defending champion St. Mary's of Stockton in a best of three series, finished 29-5 and ranked No. 3 in California.
In selecting Carlson, Cal-Hi Editor Mark Tennis noted that although this year's team had high-profile players in Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year finalist Ryan "Rowdy" Tellez and Colorado Rockies signee Dom Nunez, he also worked in several talented underclass players in building a championship team.
Among that group was his son, freshman Dylan Carlson, who started a first base for much of the season.
"That was pretty special that he got to be a part of a section champion in his first year," Carlson said. "He handled things well considering the pressure that was on him."
Despite the Thundering Herd's success, it was still a trying season in some regards for Carlson and his son.
Carlson's wife of 16 years, Caryn, has been restricted to a wheelchair for long stretches while recovering from a case of transverse myelitis, an inflammatory disorder that impacts the spinal cord. Yet she still attended all of Elk Grove's games.
"She inspires and amazes me," Carlson said.
Carlson said he has benefitted from the work of his assistants. Dave Pinckney, who retired after the last St. Mary's win, had been working within the baseball program since 1994.
"All three of his sons (Adam, Jordan and Brandon) have been a part of our program, and he's been a big part of our success," Carlson said. "The kids love being around him."
Besides Carlson and Anderson, who is still at Cordova and has more than 900 wins, the other area coaches to receive the honor are Dick Sperbeck of Bishop Armstrong (1962), Cliff Perry of McClatchy (1951) and Ed Combatalade of Sacramento (1935).