Shipman resigns, Cubs go back to Legion

DILLON — Randy Shipman said he was tired of the fight.

The long-time baseball coach resigned as the leader of the Dillon Cubs last week. He steps aside after eight seasons in Dillon that included three trips to the State tournament.

“My adult whole life has been dedicated to kids, whether as an educator or as a coach,” said Shipman, who is the principal at the middle school in Dillon. “That will always be the case.”

On the heels of Shipman’s resignation, four members of the Cubs board of directors stepped down, and the club voted to return to American Legion baseball for the 2013 season.

Ken Walsh, the secretary of the league, was one of the board members to tender his resignation at a meeting Thursday night. Rick Kunts, Dennis Miotke and Jerry Goody also resigned.

Walsh stepped down after making the motion to vote on the return to Legion.

“I made the motion because we just kept getting friction on the deal,” Walsh said. “I wasn’t prepared to have the community split on this thing, so I said, ‘This is the direction we need to go in and get this over with.’ There’s no winning in this deal. It just became a nightmare.”

The “deal” Walsh is referring to is a long battle the Cubs have fought with the Montana American Legion Baseball Committee, which is made up of George Haegele, Bill Houston and Gallatin Valley Outlaws coach Duwayne Soctt.

The battle started when the Cubs took issue with the eligibility of a player on the Gallatin Valley Outlaws. It reached a boiling point when the Committee sent a letter to the Cubs informing them they would not be eligible to play Legion ball if they didn’t replace Shipman.

“If they would have kept their nose out of what goes on in Dillon, Mont., none of this would have happened,” Walsh said of the Committee’s insistence that the Cubs fire Shipman. “At the end of the day, it’s still wrong. If I had the strength, time and money, I’d fight it.”

The board voted twice — once after a couple of changes in board members — to keep Shipman, and the club put together a 59-game schedule while playing as a Senior Babe Ruth team.

The issue, though, apparently didn’t sit well with everyone in Dillon, and a push was made to switch back to Legion.

Walsh said that push was fueled by the perception — real or unreal — that the Cubs were stepping down a level of play. That perception was the topic of a couple of editorials in the Dillon Tribune.

“The community has a passion for what had been established for the last 30-plus years,” Walsh said.

Walsh, who was a member of the board for eight years, reiterated that he has no issue with anybody on the board or in Dillon. He said stepped down because he was tired of dealing with the Legion Baseball Committee.

Walsh also said Shipman shouldn’t have been the center of attention in this whole mess. Walsh said he was the one who pushed the issue with the Baseball Committee last season.

“I’m the one who fought the board,” Walsh said. “I’m the one who wrote the letter and talked to the board. Randy didn’t do anything.”

Shipman’s coaching career began at Mission Valley in 1992, and he racked up nearly 700 wins. He coached Legion and high school baseball in Montana, Idaho and Oregon before taking over the Cubs in 2005. He sent 84 players to college and one to professional baseball.

Of the 21 seniors Shipman coached in Dillon, 20 had the opportunity to play college baseball, and 14 played at that level.

“My kids have always behaved,” Shipman said. “They were great sportsmen and never had a problem. We did things the right way.”

Shipman, 48, will continue as an associate scout for the Kansas City Royals. He said he’ll actually step up his duties as a scout now that he won’t coach the Cubs.

Shipman was looking forward to coaching his son for the first time this season. He said that won’t happen because the fight got to be too much.

“I just got tired of the false accusations and people in it for selfish reasons,” said Shipman, who added that he won’t rule out a return to coaching in the future. “The last thing I want to be accused of is limiting kids from playing baseball. It’s a mess, it’s sad and I’m sick of it.”

Walsh said he’s confident the Dillon Cubs will have continued success as they move past the controversy.

“I think they’re going to be fine,” he said. “They don’t have a coach yet, but they have a few leads.”

There’s no question, Walsh said, that the Cubs are losing a top-flight coach.

“Randy and I didn’t always get along,” Walsh said. “But I think he did a heck of a job. He didn’t deserve this.”