Severna Park baseball coach Jim McCandless, who guided the Falcons to three state championships in his 12 seasons coaching his alma mater, died Tuesday. He was 43.
The state's medical examiner confirmed to The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that McCandless' death was ruled a suicide.
"Jimmy meant everything to our program," said Wayne Mook, Severna Park's athletic director. "He ran a first-rate baseball program. He was always a first-class individual who made sure his players always did things the right way."
McCandless was also general manager of the Greater Severna Park Athletic Association, a youth sports organization that commonly goes by the name the Green Hornets.
According to the Anne Arundel County police department's report, the Eastern District responded to a "check well-being" call at 5:42 p.m. Tuesday at the Green Hornets office on the 100 block of Gali Sanchez Way in Severna Park.
Inside a maintenance room, police found a 43-year-old man who was pronounced dead on the scene by Anne Arundel County fire department personnel. The preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play. Police would not identify the name of the man.
The state's medical examiner's office ruled McCandless' cause of death as asphyxia, according to The Post.
McCandless played shortstop for Severna Park from 1983-86 under coach Jim Pitt and continued his playing career at William & Mary. In 1994, he returned to the area and served as an assistant coach for the Falcons for one season and then, after spending four years as an assistant at Anne Arundel Community College, he returned to his alma mater to take over the program in 2000.
He also worked as an accountant for T. Rowe Price for two years after college before deciding to dedicate more of his time to coaching, according to his bio on the Green Hornets website.
"I've always been involved with athletics," McCandless said in his bio. "I played baseball in high school and college. This job gives me an opportuinty to coach and work with kids. I'm outside and not sitting behind a desk working on a computer every day."
Upon hearing of McCandless' death Wednesday morning, Severna Park informed the members of its varsity and junior varsity baseball team individually and provided all students and faculty members with grief counselors. Principal Patrick Bathras sent a letter home with students to inform parents.
Last year, the Falcons reached the Class 4A state championship game, losing to Westminster, 8-7, to finish the season with a 20-6 mark. McCandless was named the All-Metro coach of the year in 2009.
"He just loved being out there," said 2009 Severna Park graduate Dylan Taylor, who played three years under McCandless and is now a pitcher at Charlotte. "He was a real genuine guy who loved the game and loved teaching the game. He was a hard-nosed coach and treated all of his players with respect. He always expected you to give 100 percent to the team."
Mike Zimmermann, a catcher on Severna Park's 2003 state championship team, said his relationship with McCandless went beyond that of a normal coach. He spent two years on the Falcons' varsity team, and McCandless later gave him a job with the Green Hornets program.
"It's definitely a tough loss," Zimmermann said. "He was a stand-up guy and someone you never forget. He was a coach, a friend and a boss to me. From the first day of practice as a freshman, he remembered your name and he cared about you.
"I remember the minute we won the state championship, I didn't run out with the rest of the guys, I hugged him first and said, 'We did it.'"
McCandless is survived by his wife, Meredith, and three daughters, Claudia, Sarah, and Georgia.
Family and Friends are invited to attend a memorial visitation on Jan. 29 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Barranco & Sons, P.A. Severna Park Funeral Home. A Memorial Service will be held Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, also in Severna Park. A reception will follow the service.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to a fund to benefit McCandless' children: McCandless College Fund C/O SunTrust Bank, 566 B Ritchie Hwy, Severna Park, MD 21146.