RIVERTON — The Raiders’ coaching staff is one of the more solid, well-versed and experienced group of guys in the American Legion program which makes sense considering all three played college baseball, some were looked at for minor-leagues, and everyone has a large part of their past heavily influenced by the sport.
Dan Hauck, one of the assistant coaches, is no different. He fits that bill just like assistant coaches Steven Reinig and Eric Baker, and he has similar history to coach Kevin “Wally” Lofthus.
Baseball started for Hauck all the way back in tee-ball, “I loved it since tee-ball. We lived in Casper and the tee-ball field was up on a hill so if you hit it far enough it went off down the hill,” Hauck said.
Hauck’s little league team was also where that championship mentality grew inside of him,
“My little league team was last team to win the Little League state championship in Wyoming back in 1986,” Hauck said with a laugh before reminiscing, “We had a kid on our team named Chris Hamilton, he hit 21 home runs that year. So in extra innings in Newcastle, when we were playing vs Torrington they walked him to get to me cause I was a much better option. Well, anyway, I hit a ball into the left center gap and he scored from first and we won and we got to go to San Bernardino.”
After playing baseball all the way through little league Hauck had more opportunities through Babe Ruth which he played from ages 13-15 before starting American Legion when he turned 16. It was there that he met Eric Baker, his now-friend and Riverton Raiders colleague as assistant coach.
“I was a lot better than coach Baker,” Hauck joked, “The Lander field is really short, that’s why he hit so many home runs back then.”
Shortly after playing for Legion it was time for college ball, something he knew he wanted to do. Originally playing for BYU Idaho, then-called Ricks College, before going on a mission trip in the mid-90s.
“Lots of times I think people use athletics to get to a place that helps them get to other places,” Hauck said about his time in college, “I could’ve played in the minor leagues, I probably never would’ve made it to the bigs, I just didn’t have a good enough arm. But what baseball did was it got me to a spot where I learned to take a few other things in my life seriously.”
One of those things was his education and the future that he could make for himself outside of baseball, leading to his acceptance to the University of Nebraska medical center for dental school where he learned what makes him happy and makes him money today at Arrow Mountain Dental off East Jackson Avenue.
When he returned from dental school he got back into the American Legion baseball program, helping coach the Raiders way back in the mid-2000s before getting busier and busier, eventually waiting until his son was older.
“I didn’t want to influence his playing time,” Hauck said about his kids’ chances at getting starting time on the diamond.
He helped coach them, as well as many of the current Raiders team, when they were eleven or twelve, “we should’ve won a little league state championship but the wheels fell off the bus really bad and it didn’t work out.”
What’s funny about American Legion baseball is that it leads to connections that last lifetimes and span multiple avenues, including the coincidental ‘small-world’ aspect that has really helped Hauck and new head coach Kevin “Wally” Lofthus and their new coaching relationship.
“My American Legion coach, Dave Carter, is coach Wally’s best friend,” Hauck said during a game against Cody last weekend, “Carter’s coached high school, Division one, JUCO, he’s done it all. When I left to go play ball at Ricks College, Carter was my coach that summer, then the next summer coach Carter and Wally came here and coached Legion ball together but I missed that by a few months.”
That connection, no matter how small, helped Hauck get even more excited for Lofthus’ arrival back in Riverton earlier this spring:
“When I found out Wally was coming to coach I was in my office. I, no joke, went dancing down the halls. I was so excited that we had a professional baseball player come coach in Riverton,” Hauck said, “cause we’ve had that before; Dave Carter pitched in the professional leagues, and when I played we had really good college coaches come coach us in the summer. I thought, ‘man I’m excited’, and then Wally and I knew of each other so when he asked me if I wanted to come help coach I was like ‘heck yeah’.”
So now that Hauck is officially an assistant coach for the Raiders, rather than just another parent who donated their time during previous seasons, he knows he’s part of a group of men who have similar mindsets.
“Our coaching staff mentality is that we hit the ball,” Hauck exclaimed, “I’m a little bit of a fielding coach but the most important thing we can teach these kids is to swing. We wanna score a bunch of runs, hit the ball around the park, and develop a swagger that we are going to hit the ball.”
That ‘swagger’ can be seen throughout every A, B, and C-team game during the week, especially in the dugout when a Raider hits a dinger into the outfield.
One of those kids is Hunter Hauck, a third-baseman with a similar mentality to his father:
“Teaching your own kid’s pretty hard, there’s a lot of fights, lot of throwing the bat at each other,” Hauck joked, “because if you watch him he will never get out of the way of the ball, and that’s something we worked on when he was really little and it’s sped up pretty well.”
That type of play is resilient in both Hauck’s, father and son, but it’s also showing throughout many of the other Raiders’ players and coaches. Now it’s time to put it all together and help the Raiders reach a new level of success.
Under assistant coaches Hauck, Baker and Steven Reinig, as well as under the leadership of head coach Lofthus, it’s entirely possible for this Raiders team to be champions one day–something that Hauck, Reinig and Lofthus have gotten close to in Riverton in their own lives.
When asked what else coach Hauck wanted to say about himself or his son he declined and simply said “Come out and watch the Raiders play, we’re standing here at the B-C game and there’s over a hundred cars here, it’s great to see.”
He wasn’t lying either, the teams on the field were not the A-team and they weren’t playing some team with great traveling-fans, yet the Raiders have grabbed the attention of Riverton and made them look at the team with a new perception.
So join Hauck and the rest of the town in cheering on the team with multiple games this weekend, as well as a weekly matchup between Lander and Riverton every Wednesday at 4:45 PM.