Health Issues Force Todd Zeigler to Step Down as Eugene Challengers Head Coach

Todd Zeigler’s last win with the Challengers was an upset of eventual Northwest Regional champs Waipahu.

Todd Zeigler is stepping down as coach of the Eugene Challengers as he deals with the ongoing effects of multiple sclerosis.

Zeigler, 42, coached the Challengers for the past six seasons, leading the American Legion baseball team to 212 wins (second all-time on the Challenger list) 123 losses and two ties. Under his guidance, the Challengers won the state championship in 2012 and made three Northwest Regional appearances. The Challengers will begin an immediate search for a new coach.

“I’m really disappointed, but I’ve got to try to get my body to work the best it can, and unfortunately I don’t think baseball helps that,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler, the head equipment manager at College of the Siskiyous, in Weed, Calif., was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disorder of the nervous system, in 2010. In his Legion coaching career, including a stint at Humboldt County in northern California, his teams won 492 games.

“When I first started coaching the Falcons, we used to come up to the Challengers’ tournament every year, and every year I was ‘wow, this is an awesome program, it would be great to coach here,’” Zeigler said. “When I got the job, I told everybody how lucky I was. The experience I’ve had with the Challengers has been awesome. The organization has been great to me and the kids have been just great.

“I know I’m not the easiest guy to play for. I’m a little abrasive. But even if the kids didn’t like my style, they bought in to what I was trying to get them to do. It’s been a really great experience.”

Challengers board chairman Dale Hartley expressed deep regret that Zeigler will be unable to continue as coach.

“The impact Todd has left on the program is long-lasting,” Hartley said. “He did it his way, but more importantly he did it the right way and the respect he has from the baseball community at large and the respect he has from all of us on the board of directors is tremendous.

“I am personally very saddened to see someone who I have so much respect and admiration for going through the terrible medical issue he is facing. He has never complained, never used it as an excuse and continues to be determined to live his life his way. I am truly sad to see Todd step away from the Challenger organization as our head coach but he will always be a Challenger.”

Hartley said “Coach Z is exactly what being a baseball coach is about — a deep love of the game of baseball and an even deeper love for the young men you coach. Todd has brought intensity, discipline, heart, dedication and a passion to Swede Johnson Stadium that is unmatched in a lot of ways. … I don’t know if the young men he has coached truly understand at the time, but Coach Z teaches so much more than just playing the game of baseball and I know years after they hang up the Challenger uniform they come to understand just how much he loved each and every one of them.”

Challengers general manager Les Duman said that a notice of application will be posted on the Challengers Web site and the organization hopes to have a new coach selected by sometime in January.