Thirty years ago Pete Doumit taught them that wins and loses are soon forgotten, what matters most in life is the person you become.
BJ Garbe, Ryan Doumit and Jason Cooper put this Columbia Basin farming community on the map in 1999 when three players from the same nationally ranked Moses Lake High School baseball team were drafted in the top 63 of the Major League Draft.
That alone would have been enough for billboards at the edge of town, announcing the home of yada yada, which aren’t there by the way.
Then there’s the fact that one went on to a 10-year Major League career with the Pittsburgh Pirates (7), Minnesota Twins (2) and Atlanta Braves (1). Another was drafted No. 5 overall, four spots ahead of Barry Zito. The third received his Stanford education in three years and has a World Series ring for his work with the Chicago Cubs organization.
If the story ended there, Moses Lake would be well represented. But the story of Pete’s guys has yet another chapter. Garbe, who was the 1999 Gatorade National Player of the Year, is a successful CEO of Ten Pin Brewery here in Moses Lake. Ryan Doumit finished up his big league career and joined his father’s staff at Big Bend Community College for Pete’s final season as the Vikings skipper. Pete just wrapped up a 45-year coaching career and Ryan will continue in his father’s footsteps, coaching the game he loves.
Cooper earned his degree in anthropology at Stanford in three years, enjoyed a minor league career with the Cleveland organization, and is now a special assignment scout with the World Champion Chicago Cubs.
To some, home is where you hang your hat. But to these guys Moses Lake will always be home.
“There’s something about Moses Lake that I love and cherish,” Garbe said. “I’ve been all around the country and back. For whatever reason, Moses Lake is home. We've all had houses in different places. Jason bought a house in Arizona. I’ve had one in Arizona, one in Bend, Ore., and Florida. Ryan had one over in Spokane, but home is where you’re heart is. Moses Lake has brought us back because of the charm and the people in the Columbia Basin.”
Ryan Doumit agreed.
“We have roots here,” he explained. “My family is here. The same friends I’ve had since kindergarten are here. I’ve lived all over the country, but it never felt like home. It was just temporary. I always had my plane ticket booked into Spokane Airport, so I could drive the hour and a half home.”
Looking back, the baseball was always pretty good. The Moses Lake Bambino League all-stars won the Washington state title in 1993. The trio was on the team that took third place in a national Junior Babe Ruth tournament as 16-year-olds. As Senior Babe Ruth players, they led the Columbia Basin River Dogs to the national championship in North Carolina in 1998. And of course, that 1999 season when the Chiefs were ranked first in the state and No. 4 in the nation among all high school baseball programs was pretty special.
To have three kids from the same high school team drafted in the first two rounds in the same draft might not happen again, said Cooper, who scouts for a living.
“It’s incredibly rare. At the time, I didn’t think of is as that big of a deal, because we were a very talented team,” Cooper said in a telephone interview from Connecticut. “But the more I run into old scouts that are still working our area high schools, they always talk about how that doesn’t happen or hasn’t happened since, probably will never happen again.
“The fact it happened in a small town environment in Washington state and not somewhere like LA or Dallas makes it even more amazing.”
Garbe, Doumit and Cooper have been together since kindergarten. There was that time when BJ and Ryan got sent down to Pete’s office at Midway Elementary for starting a milk fight in the lunchroom when they were five years old. They remain good friends today.
Cooper married his high school sweetheart. His wife Suzanne is currently in town visiting friends and family, while he’s on the road. Their personal cellphones still have that 509 area code they had in high school. In fact, it was that cellphone connection that made the early stages of their minor league careers bearable when they were first getting started.
“It was nice having three guys that were all going through the same stuff — the grind of the minor leagues, the peaks and valleys, the long bus rides,” Ryan said, looking back on his time with the Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve. “It was nice to have friends you could call and relate to. In Double A, we were all in the same league at one point. So going to New Britain (Conn.) was a chance to see BJ or when we went to Akron (Ohio), it was a chance to see Cooper. We were living our dream and were excited for each other.
“I actually had coaches call me into their office and ask how to pitch to Cooper. What are his weaknesses? I told him he doesn’t have any.”
Cooper has spent his whole adult life on the road, whether it be a football and baseball star at Stanford, during his minor league career or now as a special assignment scout for the Cubs. But those early days in the minors were special, he said.
“We all grew up around each other and we were friends that played together,” said Cooper, who was nominated as the national player of the year at Stanford. “They knew exactly what you were going through, whether it was the cold weather up in the northeast to the difficulties of grinding out every day baseball in Double A. We actually played against each other. When BJ would come into town, I wanted to be better than him that day, and Ryan as well. The competitiveness we had in high school was still there in pro ball.”
Ryan and BJ have returned to Moses Lake to give something back to the community that supported them along the way. Cooper and his wife Suzanne get back three, four times a year.
“The Basin grows good crops. It’s not just corn or wheat or potatoes, we grow good people here too,” Pete Doumit said. “That’s been the basis of my career, you’re only as successful as the people you have around you and that’s why we were successful.”