It's time once again for SUVs packed with muddy cleats and ketchup-stained pants to cruise down our highways after a fun-filled day at the ballpark.

Recently, the streets have been flooded with kids riding bikes to practice, wearing long-sleeved undershirts and ball caps.

Bob White Park in Pendleton also has been the site of action over the past two weeks as the Buckaroos prepare for the upcoming baseball season.

Green hats and gray pants filled Bob White Park as eager youngsters worked themselves into baseball shape during the Class 2A basketball tournament last week, reminding hoops fans who drove past that America's pastime is soon arriving.

For the first time in 10 years, Pendleton's mini-version of spring training is under new direction, as skipper Todd Zimmermann has taken over the helm.

Zimmermann, a name familiar in the community, also has coached the Pendleton girls basketball team since 1999 with great success.

Zimmermann just ended basketball season last week, guiding Pendleton to the Class 4A state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. It also was the Buckaroos' third straight 20-plus win season.

For his efforts, he was named the Intermountain Conference Coach of the Year.

Basketball alone would be a full plate for many, but throw in a new baby and the first day of baseball practice coinciding on Feb. 21, and some might go crazy with all the responsibilities.

"This is an exciting time for me," Zimmermann said. "It was an amazing journey with the girls basketball team, and a new baby in the family is wonderful."

While Feb. 21 was a big day personally for Zimmermann and his wife Tracy, who delivered their newborn at 1:28 p.m., the two-sport coach still had coaching duties, and he didn't miss a beat.

At 3 p.m., he conducted basketball practice prior to a quick trip to Bob White Park, where he began his tenure with the baseball program with a 5 p.m. tryout session.

"It was a crazy day," Zimmermann said. "I think I was running on the high of a newborn and was excited for the girls ... and baseball season.

"It was just an exciting day all the way around."

Obviously, Tracy deserves credit as well for being patient through all her husband's endeavors, and surely she keeps him in check when needed.

"I think very few people could have handled what Todd has gone through in the past few weeks," Pendleton athletic director Dave Williams said. "I think his wife Tracy is very supportive, and the two stay organized."

Despite a hectic schedule, Zimmermann has proven a lot about himself over the past couple weeks.

First, its obvious he can multi-task.

Second, the guy can coach basketball.

Third, he's proven he can handle responsibilities.

Fourth, he's a family man.

Fifth, he's helping youth become better athletes and citizens.

"I think he has an excellent rapport with students in the classroom, and that carries over to the basketball court and now the baseball field," Williams said of Zimmermann, who instructs Government and Contemporary World Affairs at the high school.

In any transition, it may take time for a coach to adjust to players or vise versa, but Zimmermann said he and assistant coaches Quinn Williams, Steve Utter, Brian Whitten, Randy Crawford, Gary Calvert, Brendan Smith and Rick Schimmel have been welcomed by the players with open arms.

"I think the transition is going well," Zimmermann said. "We have some different terminology and a few different approaches, but the kids are responding."

While this is Zimmermann's first season with the Buckaroos on the diamond, he's familiar with coaching baseball.

Zimmermann coached at Sprague High School from 1990-1992 and last coached an American Legion baseball team in Salem from 1998-2000.

Also at Sprague, Zimmermann coached a Big League club - which is equivalent to an American Legion A team - to three state championships during summer ball.

Zimmermann was born and raised in Klamath Falls, prior to attending the Oregon Institute of Technology and Western Oregon University, where he earned his master's degree.

Leading by example, Zimmermann is showing kids the right way to be active in the community and handling responsibilities, using the skills he learned while growing up.

His approach to teaching, coaching and family are exemplary, and hopefully they'll rub off on players or students. After all, someone's approach influenced Zimmermann during his upbringing.

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Joe McHaney is a sports writer for the East Oregonian.

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