Keith Hansen has never been caught up in wins and losses, but when his Allatoona Buccaneers defeated Lassiter last week, he reached a win plateau he said he never thought was possible.
Hansen won his 400th game. The only coach Allatoona has ever had is currently in his 19th season as a head coach and 13th with the Bucs. Despite the longevity, he never saw himself winning 400 games.
“You really don’t think about the milestones,” said Hansen, who joins his brother, Kennesaw Mountain coach George Hansen as a member of the 400 win club. “I just want my kids to compete. The scoreboard doesn’t mean as much as my guys learning how to play the game and then becoming good husbands and fathers.”
Hansen didn’t get into coaching right away, but he was always around the game of baseball. He was working for the Braves in the ticketing department when a phone call came from his long-time mentor, the late Harvey Cochran. There was going to be an opening on his coaching staff at North Cobb because George Hansen was leaving to take the head coaching job at Pebblebrook.
“I think you would make a good coach,” Keith Hansen remembers Cochran telling him.
That’s all it took. Keith Hansen was coaching baseball alongside Cochran and two other Cobb County coaching standouts in Donnie English and Dave McDonald. Now, Hansen is starting to be mentioned in the same company as his predecessors for what he’s done on the field.
“You never think of yourself in that company,” Hansen said.
Since building Allatoona’s program from Day 1, he has led the Bucs to six region titles, two elite eight appearances (2011 and 2012), one final four appearance 2015 and a state runner-up finish in 2018. He has had forty players sign to play college baseball, along with five players drafted by Major League Baseball. Last year, Clarke Schmidt became the first member of the program to reach the Major Leagues when he pitched in three games for the New York Yankees.
“I like it when you can come back, turn the TV on and see your former player pitching for the Yankees,” Hansen said.
Unfortunately, to this point, the one thing Hansen and the program are lacking is a state championship, but that could change later this spring. Allatoona is currently 18-5, 8-1 in Region 6AAAAAA and will face Pope on Monday in a game that could decide the region champion. Regardless of the outcome of that game, there is a good chance the Buccaneers could face Pope or Lassiter again in a state championship series Memorial Day weekend.
“For myself, I think when we lost to Pope (in 2018) I was more disappointed for the kids,” Hansen said. “Would I like to win a state championship? Oh yeah. But it’s more important for the players. It would be huge for the program to compete at that level again.”
Allatoona has what it takes to make it that far again, and if it does, George Hansen said he thinks his brother gives the Buccaneers an advantage.
“I may be biased,” George Hansen said. “But I don’t know if you can find a better on-field coach than Keith Hansen. He has the quickest mind and can make split-second decisions better than anyone I know.”
Recently the brothers had to match wits for the first time in a regular season game. Allatoona won 7-5. The rematch is scheduled for April 19 at Kennesaw Mountain. It was something the brothers always tried to avoid before this year, but as region rivals now, they have no choice but to face each other. Ironically, if things play out right for the Buccaneers, the second game against the Mustangs could be for a potential region championship. It would also be the completion of a learning lesson for Keith Hansen’s squad.
“In this day and age I want kids to understand you have to work hard and deal with adversity,” he said. “They have to learn how to get better. The game teaches you life isn’t fair. The game is one of failure, but its the ones who can adjust and overcome. Those are the ones who will be the winners.”
Hansen also joked that he will continue to teach those lessons with one other purpose in mind.
“I will not retire until my brother retires ahead of me, and I have one more victory than him.”
It sounds like the Allatoona baseball program is going to be in good hands for a good while longer.