Harman in the Hall: Former Westminster baseball coach poised for state's top honor

Bryan Harman will have a quiet spring this year. But he's a busy man this winter. Last weekend, he was honored as the 2011 Maryland High School Coach of the Year by the Maryland Oldtimers Baseball Association at the Del Capri Restaurant, in Dundalk.

And on Feb. 18, the former Westminster High baseball coach will be inducted into the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame at a Camden Yards ceremony. At that same event, Harman will also receive the MSABC District One Coach of the Year award.

The attention is rooted in the longtime coach's success.

In 2011, Harman guided the Westminster Owls to a 23-0 record and the Class 4A state championship. The title-game win over Severna Park was the last game of Harman's high school coaching career. After two state championships in five years, the 1977 graduate of Westminster High was done.

"Any time a coach has a team that goes undefeated and wins a state title, they (Maryland Oldtimers) recognize it as the coach having a really good year," Harman said. "I didn't do anything differently last year than in years past, but I had a great group of kids and everything fell our way.

"Statewide awards hold special meaning," he said, "because there are a lot of great coaches in the state of Maryland."

But the awards aren't just for Westminster's recent diamond crown. The honors mark the career of a coach who loved the game of baseball from the time he began playing in the 1960s, and who found a way to teach it to a generation of young athletes after his playing days were over.

"The Hall of Fame criteria is simple: You need to be successful and win championships, and Bryan has done that," said Bernie Walter, past president of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches and a member of the Hall of Fame.

"But it's also about what you've done for the game of baseball over the years," Walter said, "and he's done a lot of good things for kids. His teams were always fundamentally sound.

"Westminster High School has always had a good baseball program, and Bryan kept the tradition going," he said.

Harman was a three-sport athlete at Westminster High, but his passion was baseball. After three years on the Westminster varsity squad, he pitched four seasons of collegiate baseball at then-Towson State. When his time with Towson ended, Harman played 15 years of semi-pro baseball with teams from Stewartstown, Glen Rock and Taneytown.

He also coached the Carroll County Rangers and Charles Carroll Cougars of the Baltimore Metro League for several years, and served as an assistant coach with Team Maryland in 2006 and 2007.

He became the head baseball coach at Liberty High in the early 1980s. The highlight of his 12 Liberty seasons came in 1985, when he guided the Lions to a regional title.

Harman took over the Westminster baseball program in 2002 and enjoyed his greatest coaching success at his alma mater.

In 10 seasons under Harman's watchful eye, the Owls won seven county titles, three regional crowns and state championships in 2007 and 2011. Harman's teams at Liberty and Westminster won 253 games in 22 seasons.

"I always stressed discipline, fundamentals and effort," said Harman, now in his 30th year as a physical education teacher in Carroll County Public Schools. "If you're going to do something, don't do it half way. If you're going to put any effort into a task, it only takes a little more effort to give it your all."

Memories far afield

Harman has lived much of his life on baseball fields. Many of those days were spent with his sons, who each won state championships in their senior years at Westminster.

Brett, a senior starter for the University of Maryland baseball team, pitched Westminster to the 2007 Class 3A state title. Cody was the backbone of the 2011 Owl squad that earned the Class 4A state crown, and now catches at Frederick Community College.

"They're very important to me," said Harman, who has been married to his wife, Beth, for 28 years. "For the next few years, I'm going to sit back and enjoy watching them play, because pretty soon they'll have families of their own."

In addition to his family members, Harman has other favorite players. He wore No. 7 throughout his coaching career with good reason — a diehard New York Yankee fan, Harman's favorite player was Mickey Mantle, who sported that number during a two-decade career with the Bronx Bombers.

After Mantle retired in 1969, Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry became Harman's top Yankees. Now, he admires Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

"My sister worked for a local law firm that had box seats right behind the visitor's dugout at Memorial Stadium," Harman said. "We were close enough to sit our sodas on the dugout roof. I got a lot of baseballs. (Former Yankee) Joe Pepitone rolled a ball across the dugout right to me."

Harman also got the opportunity to watch his favorite team play in the old Yankee Stadium.

"We went up for a midweek night game," he recalled. "We caught the Tuesday game, stayed overnight in New Jersey and then came back for the Wednesday afternoon game."

Elite company

In two weeks, Harman will join the finest baseball coaches in state history when he is inducted into the MSABC Hall of Fame.

The list of previous inductees is a who's who of outstanding retired coaches, including George Henderson (City College, Essex Community College), Walter Youse (Calvert Hall, Leone's-Johnny's), Joe Binder (Calvert Hall), Roger Wrenn (Patterson), Bernie Walter (Arundel, Leone's-Johnny's), Hal Sparks (Mount St. Joseph) and Harry Lentz (Northeast).

Guy Stull, who coached Harman at Westminster and served as his assistant for many years, is also a member of the Hall.

"I was stunned, and very happy," said Harman about the moment when he heard of his selection.

"You look at the names (of the previous inductees), and they're the elite coaches in the state of Maryland. To be put into the same organization with guys like that gives me a really good feeling," he said. "It means that people respect what I've done in my 22 years of coaching baseball."

While Harman will have plenty of family at the ceremony, one of the central figures in his life will not be there.

Harman's dad died in June 2010 at the age of 87.

"My mom will be there and my dad will be looking down on me," said the 52-year old Harman, who lost his father and his father-in-law in a three-day span.

"Before the (2011 state championship) game, I knelt down by myself and said a prayer to them to be the angels in the outfield tonight. It was kind of surreal when the game ended and then the rain came down.

"They let us get the baseball game in," he said. "I know they were there."

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