Like so many recent graduates, Donnie Ecker is headed off to college – albeit for a slightly different reason.
Ecker last week announced his resignation as head coach of the Los Altos High baseball team – a position he held for two seasons – to take an assistant coaching position with Bakersfield College.
Ecker said his responsibilities at the community college will include developing infielders and working with the offense. He added that the move allows him the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in education at nearby Cal State Bakersfield.
“I’ve always been captivated by the college world and all that goes into it from a development and performance standpoint,” Ecker wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “Four years into my high school coaching career … I found myself competitively inclined to pursue the challenge of the next level. Bakersfield’s offer included the responsibility I was looking for and also included a plan to obtain my masters’ in education, which would allow me to run my own college program down the road.”
Los Altos Athletic Director Kim Cave said Ecker’s June 6 resignation came as a surprise. With other coaching jobs to fill – including boys water polo for the fall season – she won’t rush to replace Ecker. Cave said she wouldn’t open the baseball job to applicants until after summer break.
Ecker guided the Eagles to a 15-16 overall record this year that included a 5-9 mark in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division. Los Altos advanced to the quarterfinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“Donnie had good players and did a good job getting them to the playoffs,” Cave said.
Ecker joined the Eagles staff four years ago as an assistant under Sandy Wihtol, who retired after the 2012 season. Ecker made the jump into coaching after retiring from a four-year minor league career that included stints with the Texas Rangers organization – which drafted him in the 22nd round in 2007 – as well as a pair of teams in the independent Frontier League.
The 28-year-old former Los Altos High football and baseball standout conceded that departing from his alma mater was a difficult choice but said the opportunity to jump to the next level proved too great to pass up.
“This is as bittersweet as it gets for me,” he said. “You have a devoted Little League program, families that are committed to their children’s development and, most importantly, a bond with players in their third year of my system that I care deeply about.”
Ecker said despite his departure, the program remains in good shape. He noted that the incoming junior class may be the “most athletic and intelligent” group he’s seen during his time at the school. Ecker added that the program has the potential to grow even more with additional support from those above him.
“Los Altos baseball is a hidden hotbed in the baseball world,” said the 2004 Los Altos High graduate. “It has great strength at the bottom, and if it were ever matched with commitment at the top, it would be a state powerhouse.”
Ecker credited Wihtol for opening a door to coaching for him. Ecker said he won’t soon forget his short time running the baseball program.
“My four years at Los Altos will be remembered as an indelible period of time where I was able to frame my beliefs and strategies,” he said, “while developing a myriad of relationships that I will cherish forever – highlighted by coaching with Sandy Wihtol.”