It’s Travis Hardman’s turn to run the program

Travis Hardman makes a pitching change during Waynesboro's home game against Big Spring. (Lee Goodwin)

WAYNESBORO – In 2003, Travis Hardman’s life could have remained in Northern Virginia.

Instead of pursuing a career in secondary education in Fairfax, Virginia after receiving his bachelor’s degree from George Mason University, Hardman chose to return to the place of his birth.

The link between the two was baseball.

And, 21 years later, Hardman is in a good place. He is in his fourth season as head coach of the Waynesboro Area Senior High School varsity baseball team. He is married, and he and wife Dawn are expecting their third child (due May 15).

“I graduated (from GMU) in January 2003 and took a couple grad courses,” said Hardman. “What would have been my true senior year, I started pitching that year. I had Tommy John surgery my senior year and got a medical redshirt. I came home that summer and put in my application. I was substitute teaching in 2003-04 and started coaching basketball and junior varsity baseball.”

When Barry Dickey retired as a physical education teacher in 2005, Hardman was hired for the position. Hardman was promoted to head junior varsity baseball coach. He also assisted Tom Hoffman on the varsity boys’ basketball coaching staff and was the head JV hoops coach.

And so, Hardman’s life proceeded along parallel lines over the next decade – teaching PE, coaching basketball, and coaching baseball. He coached youth basketball at the Waynesboro Area YMCA and also worked in basketball and baseball clinics. Then, he began dating his future wife, a North Allegheny High School graduate who moved to Waynesboro to teach social studies.

Hardman’s biggest life change – marriage – preceded another life change – being named WASHS varsity baseball coach – by three years. By August 2020, when Hardman was officially named the top coach of a program that has been in existence since 1962 and has had only four coaches (Alex Perinnis, Dick Hersh, Greg Chandler and Hardman).

“It gives you continuity,” said Chandler, who coached from 1988 until 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19). “The kids know what to expect playing for the same coach year in and year out. Travis went through the ranks. Obviously, he was a good player in high school, went to Division I college. He also went through the ranks as a coach. He was the assistant JV coach and then head JV coach, then assistant varsity coach and now head varsity. You could ‘t script it any better.”

Hardman’s father, Terry, played baseball for the high school in the 1960s and coached Travis when he played for Waynesboro Construction in the Waynesboro Youth League in the early 1990s. Terry was Travis’s best man at his wedding in 2017. He attends Waynesboro’s home games.

Indeed, Travis Hardman took over as head coach during a tumultuous time. The spring 2020 season was canceled, leaving a year gap between seasons.

“We have some work to do because of the layoff,” Hardman said in 2020. “I want to see the athletes get back to playing Waynesboro baseball, continuing to learn our system, and, with the younger

players who didn’t get to play last spring, get them caught up. Baseball is a skill sport. If you take off too much time, it’s hard to jump right back into it.”

As a player, Hardman was quiet and extremely focused on his craft. He was 11-0 in 1997, the year the Indians beat Chambersburg 14-12 in the season opener. The Trojans entered the season as the USA Today’s No. 1 team in the nation. Waynesboro played in the Mid-Penn I Division, the top division in a very competitive conference. Central Dauphin went on to win the 1997 state championship. Chambersburg won it two years later.

“I still have a lot of memories of high school teams,” Hardman said. “We had a great catcher (Regan Smith). Mike Dedona played second base. My senior year I gained some velocity in my two-seam fastball, low and away. We got a lot of ground balls to second base. He fielded a lot of my outs. Chris Shearer played third base. Matt Caron ended up playing at Mount St. Mary’s. Dave McIntire played right field. Brett Showalter was a year behind me. He played at Penn State University’s main campus to pay for them. Robbie Warren was a good third baseman. Seth Lowman played second base. Craig Hight was also on the team.”

Hardman also remembers playing alongside Matt White (Class of 1996). Hardman had the opportunity to learn the craft of pitching from the hard-throwing White, who worked with Hardman to develop a circle changeup that became Hardman’s go-to pitch and helped him go 11-0 on the mound during his junior season in 1997.

“I learned a lot from Matt White,” said Hardman, who was a sophomore when White was a senior and garnishing all kinds of attention from scouts as well as a packed Indian Field. “I learned how to handle pressure and just from his daily approach to the game.”

White, who opted not to attend Georgia Tech on a baseball scholarship, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was named the 1996 Gatorade National Player of the Year.

“It was a great experience to play with him and all that came with it,” Hardman said. “I was at first base when he pitched, and he was at first base when I pitched. When I was at first base he came so fast with his pickoff throw. I remember when ESPN came. He had a following. It was kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The two biggest crowds we had were the ESPN game and when we played Chambersburg.”

Hardman was recruited by George Mason University, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. He settled in to become one of the top pitchers on the Patriots pitching roster.

He was George Mason’s top pitcher in wins and ERA in 2000 and 2001 and entered 2001 as the number one starter until suffering an elbow injury early in the year after posting a 2-2 record with a 3.72 ERA in five starts.

In 2002, Hardman averaged 0.99 walks per game, which is second best in team history. In 1999, Hardman averaged 9.57 strikeouts per game (nine innings), 11th best in team history.

Years later, with many memories of his high school years and college seasons behind him, Hardman is now living in both the current and the future.

“I liked the program that Greg had established, and I believed in it,” said Hardman when the time came for him to lead the team. I knew that he had big shoes. There was a reason he won all those games. I wanted to be my own coach. I still try to do some of the ‘small ball’ he did. We called it Cat Ball.”

Indeed, the Indians (who are 5-2 this season) still drive opponents crazy with bunts and stolen bases. They’re hoping to return to the District 3 playoffs after missing out last season. Waynesboro qualified for the postseason in 2021 and 2022.

“It doesn’t come down to the coach’s call. It comes down to the players executing it,” Hardman said “We had a young team last year, but we improved in the second half of the season. There’s nothing that replaces experience. Last year, those kids that are now juniors were sophomores playing varsity. They took their lumps. Our starting infield (Ethan Hotchkiss, Brett Powell, Calvin Myers and Tank Benedict) are all juniors. It’s still way early in the season, but we are starting to see the experience paying off.”

Waynesboro plays its next game on Monday against James Buchanan in Mercersburg.

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