WALLA WALLA - Coach Jared Holowaty and his Whitman College Missionaries are the underdogs - no doubt about it - as they prep for this weekend's East vs. West baseball battle against coach Bill Holowaty and his Eastern Connecticut State Warriors.
Jared Holowaty, starting his third season at Whitman, is still building a program that has but one senior and just a few juniors on its roster.
Contrast that relative inexperience with Bill Holowaty (Jared's father), a coaching legend in his 44th season with almost 1,400 victories and four NCAA Division III national titles to his Eastern Connecticut credit.
The elder Holowaty, as the proud proprietor of one of the top DIII baseball programs in the nation, also comes to Walla Walla later this week with a roster anchored by nearly a dozen seniors and juniors.
A mismatch, you say?
Maybe so, but as the good-natured taunts continue bouncing from one side of the continent to the other, the younger Holowaty doesn't hesitate to play his trump card.
Just remember, he tells his dad, that mom is on my side!
Mom, in this case, is Jan Holowaty, the proverbial good sport who has sat through publicity photos and interviews as two of the main men in her life get ready to butt heads on the baseball diamond.
"There's no question in my mind, that I'm rooting for my son," she said as her husband sat nearby. "It's simple. I've cheered for Bill for 50 years and I've been loyal to him forever." Still, she pauses to look at the father of her three children and ask, "Does it matter to you who I cheer for?"
Bill Holowaty shakes his head ‘no' as his spouse adds, "I'm not going to yell and scream (for Whitman)... but if they could split, boy oh boy."
Two decades ago, Jan Holowaty walked the same tightrope on behalf of her eldest son, Jason, when he played four seasons of second base for Brown University. Eastern Connecticut and Brown split the four games the two teams played.
Jared, six years his brother's junior, remembers those Eastern Connecticut-Brown games.
"I think those games were hard on dad," he said. "My brother was a very good athlete, and a great student, but his personality is more easy going and relaxed.
"Jason probably isn't as competitive or tenacious or aggressive as what you see in our dad, or in me. I'm more like my father in that way. Butting heads might come more naturally for the two of us."
Plus, he said with a big grin, "I remember what I was like as a kid. I was a huge pain in the rear, which is what happens when you're a kid and you grow up around a bunch of college baseball players.
"So, I don't think dad is going to have any problem trying to kick me and my team in the rear this weekend," Jared said. "Looking back, I've probably done enough to deserve it. This is one time when I might be taking my team down with me."
All kidding aside, there is no mistaking that Bill and Jared share the same outgoing and very likeable personality, or that their father-son bond is strong.
"This weekend's baseball series really isn't about my dad against me, but I know he's excited and thrilled about the chance to bring his team out there to play us," Jared Holowaty said. "He's a father who's looking forward to playing his son's team. What father wouldn't enjoy the heck out of a situation like that."
Bill Holowaty also prefers to keep the focus on the experience to be gained as two teams from opposite sides of the country compete against other.
"We want it to be very positive experience for all of the players, but I'm sure they want to kick us, and we want to kick them," he said.
Make no mistake, though, competing against your sons is not easy, he admits.
Trying to beat Brown with son Jason playing second base was the "worst I've ever felt in a game," he said. "I was just beside myself for all four of those games... I wanted to beat Brown, but I didn't want to make Jason look bad."
The same situation looms for this weekend, he said.
"I don't want Jared to look bad as a coach, but I want to win."
Unlike his older brother, Jared Holowaty opted to stay home and play for his father at Eastern Connecticut. A four-year starter in the outfield and a two-year team captain, he helped the Warriors win three conference titles as well as the NCAA DIII national title in 2002. He was twice named to the all-conference first team.
"Playing for my dad was a great experience, but that was only because I postponed college for a year to play for the Melville Braves club team in Australia," he said. "I was there with my brother, and we had a great time. It also gave me a year to grow up. Before that, I don't think my dad could have put up with me."
As Holowaty was returning from his year in Australia, Eastern Connecticut was winning the third of Bill Holowaty's four national titles. That development is what persuaded the son to stay and play for his father.
"That's the only reason I went to Eastern Connecticut - I wanted to win a national title," Jared said. "I think that's what they call putting all of your eggs in one basket, which isn't a good idea unless it works out. I was fortunate that it worked."
After graduating with a degree in economics, Jared Holowaty spent the next six years as an assistant baseball coach, the first two seasons at Eastern Connecticut and the College of New Jersey, and the last four at the University of Maine.
Whitman selected him for its head coaching position in July of 2009.
"I like to think I've taken bits and pieces of my coaching philosophy from all the coaches I've worked with or played for, including my dad," he says. "Sometimes you learn what not to do from other people. It probably takes years to really develop your own coaching style."
In looking ahead to this weekend, Holowaty distances himself from the notion that "this is about me coaching against my father, or vice versa, or that it's just about winning and losing," he said. "Both teams want to win four games, but this series gives guys on both teams a chance to meet one another and compete against each other.
"This experience opens a window to a different part of the country for both teams. That's what I remember most and appreciate the most about what baseball did for me as I was growing up. Baseball took me places where I might not have gone otherwise, and it introduced me to people I might not have met."
As a father, Bill Holowaty is happy that his youngest son found a baseball home at Whitman.
"Those people (at Whitman) are so supportive of Jared," he said from his home in Connecticut. "He loves it out there, and we're so darn happy because the people accepted him. They received him like a son."