Prep Baseball Report

Hardman Enjoys Sharing His Love For The Game 

Bruce Hefflinger
Ohio Senior Writer

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Hardman Enjoys Sharing His Love For The Game 

OTTAWA HILLS - What do 700 wins mean to Chris Hardman?

It is only a number, just like 72, the age of the Ottawa Hills’ mentor who has aspirations to keep coaching for another decade.

“The 700 comes on the shoulders of some wonderful baseball players,” pointed out Hardman, who picked up the unforgettable win this past week. “I’m grateful for that. No one would have even known about it if the statistician hadn’t brought it up.”

There is a number that Hardman does know, and like the win total, that number will only get higher. 

“If you talk about 700 you have to talk about the 541 losses,” Hardman said. “That’s a record that will last forever. They will either fire a guy before he gets that many or he’ll quit.”

Giving up a coaching gig that began more than 40 years ago is not in the cards any time soon for this long-time mentor.

“I want to coach 10 more years,” explained Hartman, who has four daughters and 11 grandchildren, including four boys in the Ottawa Hills’ school system. “I’m their grandpa and I would like to coach them.

“I’m as energized today as I’ve ever been,” added Hartman, whose Green Bears are currently 6-2 on the season and ranked 11th in the state in Division III. “I’m hoping for 10 more years.”


Family is not only on his mind when it comes to his future as a coach, but is the reason Hardman took it up initially.

“I always thought I’d be a baseball coach,” Hardman related. “I watched my father teach and coach and that’s all I could come up with to do. It’s right for me.”

His dad made quite an impression on Hardman at a young age.

“My father ran a baseball clinic for eight weeks in the summer and I spent every day all day with my dad,” Hardman reflected. “I learned a love for the game and that’s carried over to today.

“If I’m proud about anything as a baseball coach, it’s that my father and I are the only father-son in the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame.”

His father, Jim, was inducted in 1985 with Hardman becoming a member 20 years later.

“It was a great thrill for him but even greater for me,” Hardman said. “I think of him every time I step on the baseball field and like to share that love with the kids.”

After all, family is what it is all about.

“I’ve been blessed with a great family,” Hardman noted. “A coach’s wife has to be invested and my wife (Jeanie) has been there forever.”


After three years as JV coach, Hardman took over as head coach at Ottawa Hills in 1977.

“The first year I remember we weren’t very good,” reflected Hardman, a 1969 graduate of Piqua where his father was head baseball coach. “The first decent team we had was 1980. We had some wonderful athletes and won our first district championship.”

There have been 16 more district titles along the way as well as eight regional titles. In addition, there were four state semifinal wins and one state title.

“The story is Chris Hardman can’t win the big one,” the OH coach said. “But it’s not about me.”

That is something he learned along the way.

“Players win games,” Hardman said in assessing what he has gained an understanding about in his time in the sport. “Keep baseball simple and play a very competitive schedule. I believe iron sharpens iron. A lot of that came from my father.

“See ball, hit ball,” Hardman continued. “Play good defense and throw strikes. When kids can do that we typically win games.” 


Along the way there have been some great memories made.

“The first one is easy,” Hardman said of the biggest highlight - winning the Class A state championship in 1986 with an 8-7 11-inning victory over Sidney Lehman Catholic. “We had one kid that pitched all eight games.”

The program has been elite ever since.

“That set the stage for the possibilities,” Hardman explained. “Every team can point to that and say it can be done. When there’s success in the tournament you can tell the next group it’s possible.”

But winning is never easy.

“Some of the best teams we had did not get to the Final 4,” Hardman noted. “That’s just the nature of baseball. We don’t take anything for granted.”

The sport has certainly become important in Ottawa Hills.

“The thing that stands out is we’ve had kids that love to play and a community that’s embraced it,” Hardman said. “I’ve tried to orchestrate that. Our goal every year is to be the last team standing. To even think of that is outstanding.

“We’ve failed for 38 years in a row, but you want to swing big. We don’t talk to kids that we want to be average, we talk about being the last guy standing.”

His love for the game is obvious.

“He is someone with a very deep passion for the game,” pointed out senior Sebastian Stevens, the starting pitcher in last year’s state semifinals. “Everyday he is out at his field preparing it for practice, or a game. It seems at times that he eats, lives and breathes baseball. I know a lot of the players appreciate that. I have never met someone who cares as much about the game as him. He wants us to succeed, but at the same time that doesn’t always mean winning, it might mean learning from our losses.

“He even wrote 540 on the back of the 700 win paper and held it up for the pictures,” Stevens said in reference to the loss total at the time. “He also mentioned to us after our 700th win he said he takes most of the credit for the losses and ‘players win games’ which demonstrates how humble he is.”

Doing it the right way is something Hardman impresses upon his players.

“One specific thing he commonly stresses is to respect the game,” Stevens explained. “Never say negative things to other teams, but instead encourage our team. He is also someone who cares about the little things, spending a lot of time at practice doing things repetitively to make sure whatever it is comes together in game.

“As a person, he is someone who is highly respected within the Ottawa Hills community as a positive figure, hosting many baseball camps every year to spread his love for the game to the future of Ottawa Hills baseball.”


It was 1974 when Hardman became a teacher and he continues to do that in some capacity on and off the field.

“I retired 10 years ago from teaching high school and junior high, but I still work at the elementary school with individual students in a mentor role,” Hardman related. “Hanging out with kids makes me think and feel younger.”

The ability to connect with youth has proven valuable in his coaching profession.

“In today’s world coaching is about relationships, creating meaningful experiences, learning how to win and lose, and how you handle it,” Hardman explained. “Coaches have the best classroom for teaching values and life lessons. I’ve never forgotten that. It came from my father. That’s the real privilege. You’re able to invest time with kids and teach valuable lessons.”

The message has been received from players like Stevens.

“He has meant so much to me as a player and a person,” noted Stevens, a second team all-state pitcher last season who will take his game to the University of Findlay next school year. “Since the beginning of ACME baseball until now, he has always cared about me personally, and taught me a lot about being a good person along with being a good baseball player. I feel since then he has always viewed me as someone who could make an impact within the program at a young age.

“However, with that being said, he has always expected a lot from me. While I was a sophomore he was at times very hard on me, but it was always with the goal of getting me ready. He also values mine, and other players' opinions. He’s not someone who doesn't accept thoughts from players. I feel the past two years he’s taken players’ thoughts and worries, and turned them into something positive.”

That willingness to adapt is appreciated.

“While I was being recruited, he would ask me, ‘How can I help you’, or ‘Is there anyone you would like me to call?’ He was really just offering a lot of his connections to me, because he truly wants me to succeed wherever I go after my senior year. I feel that in everything he does, he truly means it and is genuine.

“I know that might seem like a simple thing, but it’s something I personally appreciate a lot. I will forever be grateful for everything he has done for me, and the Ottawa Hills baseball program.”


In the eyes of Hardman, it is a special program and school.

“So many of those that have passed through the baseball program or Ottawa Hills High School have gone on to become incredible adults,” Hardman said. “That stems from having wonderful moms and dads that nurture them. Many moved away and created wonderful families, but I stay in touch with a lot of them.”

Those strong relationships were developed while Hardman was teaching academics or the game he loves.

“I see the beauty in the game of baseball,” Hardman related. “Mind you, while I only coach baseball now, I coached football and basketball. But there’s something about baseball that can get in your soul unlike the other sports.

“I think there’s magic on the baseball field. I love the way it looks, the way it smells. I love being out there. I love to see my guys out there competing.”


That passion for the game is something Hardman loves to see in others. As for anyone who would like to become a coach, he has some advice.

“I would share something my father shared with me,” Hardman noted. “They don’t care about what you know unless they know you care. Make sure they know you care.”

That is something Hardman saw in his dad, who passed away 12 years ago.

“When my father retired he drove from Piqua and got to know my kids,” Hardman related. “He drove two hours many, many times to watch Ottawa Hills baseball. He went with us to Sarasota (spring trip for baseball) the first 24 times we went. The best thing that’s ever happened to me was being able to share baseball and Ottawa Hills baseball with my dad.”

There is no doubt, Hardman is proud to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“It was a given that I was going to coach,” Hardman said. “My father expressed that he loved that I was a coach and even said I was a better coach than he was. I said I had the best teacher.

“He was always proud of me as a teacher and as a coach. The best thing he ever shared was spending every moment with me on the baseball field.”

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