Coach retiring

By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – There have been three emotional gatherings in the last five seasons on the baseball field at Harlem High School.

All three of them involved Doug Livingston.

The third one occurred May 17, on the occasion of his retirement after 24 years in coaching. During that time his teams, first at Auburn and then at Harlem, combined to win more than 300 games.

More than 200 of coach Livingston’s former players along with family, friends and staff, turned out for the bittersweet ceremony.

Organizers managed to pull off a surprise, before the start of the non-conference game against Crystal Lake South. (South didn’t cooperate by winning, 4-0).

Current players took off their jerseys to display custom-made T shirts that read, on the front, “Harlem Baseball, Know the Play Before it Happens.” On the back was the inscription, “Do it for L.”

The night before Harlem (21-7, 15-1) routed Jefferson, 17-4, to guarantee at least a share of the NIC-10 championship. On May 18, the Huskies defeated Freeport – at home – to win the title outright.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Coach Livingston said. “They have worked hard and made this an exciting and enjoyable season. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

“It has been a great run at Harlem and I have developed so many great relationships,” he added. “I am also proud of all the players I have coached, and it will be emotional when that last game happens. I have been so fortunate to have talented players, supportive parents and to be part of a great tradition at Harlem.”

“A valuable asset”

Athletic Director Kurt Weigt was at Harlem for several of Livingston’s 14 years as head coach.

“Doug Livingston has been a valuable asset to the coaching staff at Harlem for the past 14 years as our head baseball coach,” he said.

“I know the decision for Doug was a difficult one, but he identified it was time to step away from the game he loves.”

“Doug has won several conference, regional and sectionals, the pinnacle being the sectional championship in 2004 with a 31-7 record.

“Doug has taken the role of mentor to young men to a new level by staying connected to many former players and following their progress through their college careers, several of which are currently on his staff.

“Doug is an educator and winner in every sense of the word. We wish him the very best that life has to offer. Doug will be missed by the baseball community and the Harlem coaching staff for sure!

“He will continue to teach at the school. I am proud to call him a colleague and friend. Harlem Athletics would like to wish Doug and his family many years of happiness and best wishes for the future.”

In addition to teaching at Harlem, Livingston also is senior class advisor and a member of the scholarship, wall of fame and dinner-dance committees, along with the equity team.

Among this year’s varsity team is junior Jake Nimtz, pitcher-outfielder who started playing for Livingston as a freshman. Jake’s mother, Kelly Nimtz, used the word “blessed” to describe how she felt that her son learned from this man.

“I feel very blessed to have had Doug as Jake’s high school baseball coach for the past three years,” she said. “We’re gonna miss him next year. We still have a lot more to do.”

“I also feel very blessed that Doug gave Jake a chance as a freshman to pitch at the varsity level,” she added. “His confidence in my son has made him a better ball player and leader.”

Earlier celebrations

One of Livingston’s assistant coaches, Bill Girling, was honored on that same field in 2012. His teams won more than 400 games over 42 years of coaching the program’s head man and gave Doug his start at Harlem by hiring him as an assistant.

As a continued memory of that day the sign, “Girling Way,” still stands at the head of a short gravel access road to the field.

The following year Livingston was feted at home after his 2013 team won the 300th game under his direction, at home against Auburn, 16-4, That also was a surprise, being planned and executed by A.D. Weigt and his administrative assistant, Kim Schwegler.

For nine consecutive years, the last being in 2012, they won 20 or more games. After a brief hiatus the Huskies are back on track, posting their 20th win May 16 with a thrilling 6-5, extra inning victory over rival Hononegah.

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