North Coast baseball fans were left stunned on Saturday and wondering what exactly is going on at Eureka High with the news that the school has fired a second baseball head coach in less than a year with absolutely no explanation.
First-year head coach Jackie Christensen was informed early on Saturday that he was being let go and told nothing more than the fact the program was going in a different direction.
“I don’t know what I did,” said Christensen, who had his team on a seven-game winning streak and in contention for a Big 5 championship.
Last year, head coach Jeff Giacomini was let go despite leading the team to back-to-back league championships.
Eureka High Athletic Director Kristie Christiansen did not return a phone call to Humboldt Sports to explain the decision, indicating only through an email that assistant AD Eric Giacone would take over for the remainder of the season.
Christensen was left baffled by the news, as were a number of local coaches and fans.
The former Eureka player and first-year head coach met with the AD and school principal Jennifer Johnson early Saturday morning after being informed on his way home from a doubleheader sweep in Crescent City on Friday evening that they wanted to see him.
“It was a four or five minute meeting that just went with them saying ‘sorry to let you know that we will be letting you go,’ and that Eric Giacone will be stepping in to finish the season,” Christensen said. “And that the program needed a change in direction.”
The coach says he was given no other reason why, or what different direction the program needed to take.
“There was nothing specific that I know of to get me fired, which is why I’m surprised,” Christensen said.
The decision is particularly baffling because it comes in mid-season with the Loggers unbeaten in the Big 5 and ranked high in the North Coast Section.
“To make the decision in mid-season with some big games coming up, it makes it look like I did something wrong,” Christensen said, adding that he has no idea what that might have been.
Christensen admits he employed a more laid-back atmosphere than his predecessors, and played more of the younger players by merit, which may have antagonized some of the veteran players or their parents.
“That’s my speculation,” he said.
“I had a different coaching philosophy,” he added. “I want my players to be loose, relaxed and not play in fear.”
Coming so recently after the popular and successful Giacomini was let go does not look good for Eureka High and the manner in which the school is running the program.
Neither does the fact the AD refused to provide a reason for the decision, which can only lead to speculation.
It also goes against the grain of a department that has been very progressive and vocal in recent years in trying to build a better culture for its athletes and one that has rightly been commended for its efforts.
Without explanation, however, it begs the question what sort of message is the school administration sending these athletes?
Christensen says he wishes his players the best on the remainder of their journey this season.
“It’s not over for them,” he said. “They’ve still got to go and get it done. I wish them the best.
“I just wish I could finish the season, and show that what I was doing was working. We were building team chemistry.”
In terms of wins and losses, the Loggers were certainly coming together in recent weeks after a slow start that saw them play just four games in all of March due to a series of rainouts.
The Loggers are 6-0 in the Big 5 and 10-3 overall.
“Without an explanation, I don’t feel good about what happened,” Christensen said.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.