Dowagiac HS names baseball field after Hall of Fame Coach Dean Hagen

Published: Apr. 15, 2023 at 10:21 PM EDT
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DOWAGIAC, Mich. (WNDU) - A big league tribute as Dowagiac Union High School names their new baseball field in honor of Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Coach Arthur Dean Hagen.

Coach Hagen, who players affectionately refer to as “Twenty,” coached the Dowagiac varsity baseball team from 1977 to 1997 and never had a losing season in those 21 years.

“Well, they (players) wanted to call me Dean, but I said that’s not going to work,” Hagen says. “So, you can call me coach, or you can call me Twenty, or you can call me Mr. Hagen because I had to get the discipline first, and then when I got their attention on that, they knew I was serious.”

Finishing with a win/loss record of 482 to 187, or nearly five wins for every two losses, his teams won six conference championships.

“Consistency, I mean, coaches will coach two to three years and get upset, but consistency in the program, building it all the way up, he was just that part of Dowagiac, and Dowagiac was Dean Hagen,” says Dave Stowers, former Coloma High School baseball coach from 1978 to 1988. “And when you played Dowagiac, you better be ready. If you didn’t come strapped and ready to play, you’re going to lose. (He had) great teams; great to watch. This honor, he deserves all this.”

Stowers’ emotions nearly got the best of him when thinking back to 1983, when Coloma eliminated Dowagiac from the District semi-finals.

“We beat them 5-2, but he followed me all the way to state and supported me,” Stowers said. “Pretty good. I played many battles with Coach Hagen, and he was always a tough competitor, always a tough competitor. But Dean always supported me when I was Coach.”

Former players and opponents of Coach Hagen describe him as disciplined, consistent, and centered around baseball fundamentals.

“That’s why the field is being named after him,” says Andy Krueger, Dowagiac High School Baseball Player under Coach Hagen from 1988 to 1991. “It’s an easy one. He put the time in to be successful. In high school baseball, you have to have your ball players playing in the summer, and he did that. He created a culture of baseball, and everyone wanted to be there and put the time in, and we won a lot of games.”

An all-state athlete and 1990 Detriot Free Press Mr. Baseball runner-up, Krueger recalls a time he was late to practice.

“I needed help in math class, so I got a little tutoring and was an hour late to practice,” Krueger said. “I said, Coach, I have to hit the books, too. So, I had to run 60 laps, a lap for every minute I was late. I was running the entire practice, and if he couldn’t do that to me, he couldn’t do it to anybody, so he was very consistent. He ran a great program, and he put the time in.”

Shortly after throwing out the first pitch to christen the new diamond, Hagen revealed why his teams were so successful.

“I always preached fundamentals,” Hagen said. “We’d do some drill-type things, and (players would say), oh, we know how to do this, when we first started off. Well, I said you’re going to learn how to do it right and do it every time the same way.”

He went on to speak about the players he coached over the years.

But they were talented kids; there’s no question,” Hagen said. “You know, when you have eight kids that are drafted in 21 years, and most of them played for three years for you, so right there, you got a stud on the team, so it’s hard to lose when you got good kids like that.”

Dean Hagen Field is still receiving upgrades, and school officials tell 16 News Now that the sign bearing Coach Hagen’s name will be installed this summer.

Hagen’s teams earned the conference championship in 1978, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1991, and 1993.

He was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

Hagen was named National High School Coaches Association Region 4 Coach of the Year in 1993.

Eight of his players were drafted into the minor leagues. Those players are Floyd Smith, Jeff Nate, Arnie Garritano, Damon Saetre, Dan Tobin, Greg Willming, Andy Krueger, and Scott Nate.

Hagen’s #20 jersey was retired by Dowagiac School Board in the spring of 1998.

He was also named to the Black Hills State University Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994 (his alma mater).

The Niles Vikings played against the Dowagiac Chieftains in the first official game at Dean Hagen Field.

Coach Hagen’s grandson Jack caught the first pitch before playing in the game.