Three weeks ago, John Arntson, a baseball coach and teacher at Clackamas High School since 1997, accepted the school’s offer to be athletic director and assistant principal. He knew that the promotion came with strings attached, including one gigantic string: he could no longer lead the Cavalier baseball program as its head coach.
The reckoning came Monday, when Arntson donned the uniform for a home game for the last time in his 24-year career. After a couple of his coaches lauded him in a pre-game ceremony, Arntson stepped up to the microphone to address those gathered on this overcast, blustery day.
“I didn’t want the focus to be on me today,” he said, choking back tears. “I just want to say thank you to everybody. The community support it takes to do this…it takes a village. The village has been there every time.”
Monday’s win 2-1 over powerful Lakeridge was the 419th in Arntson’s 24-year career. He will finish just outside the top 25 coaches in Oregon history in all-time wins. All but one spent more time on the bench then Arntson did.
“Coach Arntson is a class act and we’re going to miss him on the field,” Lakeridge head coach Ray Pearson said.
During his tenure, Arntson led Clackamas to nine league titles, 17 state tournament appearances, seven state semifinals, five state final games and three state titles, in 2008, 2010 and 2017.
Monday’s ceremony concluded with the announcement that Arntson’s #9 jersey would be retired, never to be worn again by a Clackamas player or coach. Clearly moved, Arntson hugged his coaches, his players and his loved ones, before returning to the dugout to retrieve the lineup card he needed to deliver to home plate. He coached with emotion for seven innings and pushed the right buttons to get his team a come-from-behind win.
“I’m going to remember that for a long time,” he said afterwards.
“The school was a sleeping giant when I got here,” he said. “I was just a lucky guy from Montana who walked into this situation.”