Longtime Tulare Union baseball coach Jim Garrett retired from coaching in 2000 after 35 seasons with the Redskins.
But he will have a strong presence at today's Central Section Division II semifinal games.
Three former players of Garrett's have led their respective teams to within one game of playing for the championship -- Tulare Union coach Kevin Brown, Tulare Western coach Ken Searcy and Mt. Whitney coach Ryan Miller.
"That doesn't happen very often," Garrett said. "I don't know who to root for."
In one semifinal game, No. 5 Tulare Western hosts No. 8 Mt. Whitney.
And in the other semifinal, No. 6 Edison hosts No. 7 Tulare Union.
Both games are at 4:30 p.m.
"I think that's a wonderful testament to Jim Garrett," Brown said. "I don't know how many times you can say where three coaches who played for the same coach were still playing this late in the season."
Brown said he's joked around with Searcy, saying he knows Garrett will be cheering for Tulare Union, but that he doesn't know who Garrett will side with in the Mt. Whitney-Tulare Western game.
Garrett doesn't know either.
"I just wish them all luck," Garrett said. "I'm glad it is them and not me."
All three coaches -- Brown, Searcy and Miller -- had nothing but good things to say about their respective counterparts.
"I just hope both teams show up and it is a great game," Miller said. "However it ends, there is a lot of mutual respect there. We're all trying to get the best effort out of these kids and to help shape them."
Searcy didn't want to look past Mt. Whitney so he commented on his opponent today.
"I respect Ryan a great deal; he's a great friend of mine," Searcy said. "I respect what he's done with that program. They're a classy group of guys. I like playing teams that are respectful of the game."
Brown said his team was focused on Edison only, but the fact that three teams from Tulare County with coaches from Tulare speaks volumes about the brand of baseball being played here.
"The fact that Tulare has the chance for a Valley championship is a testament to the hard work put in by the programs," Brown said. "It is wonderful, but the bottom line is we have to get 21 outs in Edison before we get that far. Our focus is on the next pitch, the next at-bat, and the next out before we can think ahead."
Garrett said he has seen all three teams play this season and likes what he sees out of all three of them, and a lot of credit goes to the jobs the coaches are doing.
"They all played three years for me and they were all good players," Garrett said. "They know the fundamentals and know how to play the game. That's the important thing. They know what it takes to win. It probably will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes."
Mt. Whitney has played Tulare Union and Tulare Western this season, losing to both teams.
But the Pioneers have made a habit of losing to teams in the regular season and bouncing back to beat them in the playoffs.
"Its a whole different deal when it is win or go home," Miller said. "But we all respect each other and may the best team win."
Searcy knows his team has a tough challenge ahead of it, but the players have shown a high level of focus in the past couple of weeks.
"We haven't had a bad practice since the Tulare Union game," Searcy said. "At this point, there's really nothing more you can do. Coaches don't coach, players play. That's the bottom line. As coaches you enjoy the ride at this point."
While Tulare Western and Mt. Whitney get the opportunity to play close to home, Brown and the Redskins will have to travel for the second straight game. They went to Bakersfield and knocked off two-time defending champion Frontier on Thursday, and now they're headed to Fresno to play Edison.
"We stress to the guys that the location and where you're playing shouldn't dictate our approach," Brown said. "You have to play hard-nosed baseball. You have to get guys on base, dictate the action and do it whether you are at Live Oak, at Edison or at Dodger Stadium."
Garrett, who said he will probably be at the Tulare Western-Mt. Whitney game today because he has a few errands to run in the afternoon, said he'd like the opportunity to see Tulare Union play once more.
If that happens, it would guarantee the championship game would be played in Tulare.
"To have two Tulare schools and another Tulare kid at Mt. Whitney, it is going to be very exciting," Garrett said. "It should be interesting. I'm just glad I'm not a betting man."