Tom Swapp was a starting third baseman for the Parberry Steelers men’s slowpitch team out of Bellingham that won multiple state championships in the 1970s.
Word of that kind of conquest spreads quickly, especially when the hometown high school is interested in starting up a varsity girls’ slowpitch program.
And in 1980, Anacortes High School badly needed a coach.
“I was the logical suspect,” Swapp said.
Well, Swapp not only started with the program, he is still the only coach the school has ever known.
Not only has the good-natured Swapp enjoyed a great deal of success, including leading the Seahawks to a Class 4A Washington state slowpitch title over Enumclaw in 1994, he is also the state’s all-time winningest softball coach.
With Anacortes undefeated at 18-0 this season heading into the district tournament, Swapp is 614-352 in his 40th season.
“You cannot win games without good players,” Swapp said. “And we’ve had a run of them.”
Swapp remembers the first game he coached at Anacortes in 1980. The Seahawks gave up 34 runs in a loss to Oak Harbor.
“But we played them again 10 days later, and they beat us 13-9,” Swapp said. “And Mert Waller, the legendary coach from Oak Harbor, asked to talk to my team afterward, and he told them how much they had improved. That was an inspiration to me as a coach.”
Swapp said it was a class of ninth graders who turned out in 1991 that triggered the program’s transformation from fringe playoff team to state championship contender.
In 1994, the Seahawks tripped up Enumclaw, 9-7, in the 4A championship game. A year later, Anacortes’ bid for defending its crown ended with a 9-8 loss to Mount Vernon in the state title game.
And in 1996, the transition from slowpitch to fastpitch happened.
“My assistant coach and I worked hard preparing for it,” Swapp said. “I still don’t know how to coach pitching, but I can coach game strategy.”
Since then, Anacortes has played in nine state fastpitch tournaments, with a school-best finish of fourth place, set in 2014 in the 2A ranks.
In his 40 seasons, Swapp, 71, a retired teacher, has sent 26 of his players on to college programs.
“No way I thought I’d (coach 40 years),” Swapp said. “But I enjoy it. … I now have slowpitch moms who have their fastpitch daughters playing here for me.”