The toughest coach WSU's Tam Sing ever had

PULLMAN -- From the time he uttered his first word, WSU Cougar shortstop Trace Tam Sing was destined to play baseball. The same word he uses to claim a fly ball was what came out of his mouth as a toddler. "Ball," the little Tam Sing said. From that point on, his father also served as his coach for many seasons. And that wasn't always the best thing.

Growing up in Bellevue, Tam Sing remembers playing baseball, starting with tee-ball and working his way up from there.

"Baseball is my one love. It's been unreal," Tam Sing said. "I've been blessed to be able to play baseball for the past 22 years, I like to say, because I feel like I've been playing it since I was born."

Throughout his childhood, Tam Sing's father, Roland, coached his son as often as he could. And Trace said his dad was much harder on him when he was younger.

"Whenever I was little, he was always trying to be the coach of my team and sometimes it was a good thing, sometimes it was a bad thing," Tam Sing said. "Most of the time, I wanted to get away from him but he always seemed to come back. You take that for granted when you're younger, and when I'm older now, I look back at it, and I thank him all the time for what he did for me and my brother."

Roland now says he was sometimes too hard on his son. He said he never wanted to give the impression that he was favoring him in any way. Roland figured that pushing Trace harder would prepare him for the coaches he would have at higher levels of the game.

Sometimes, Trace's dad would make him stay even after the team practice was over so that he could do extra work.

"My dad was really into it. My dad was the dad who was at every practice, he'd be at every game," Tam Sing said. "He'd make me stay after practice and hit or take ground balls. He was really hard on me when I was younger, and I think that's why he's loosened the reins a little more as I've gotten older."

"I think at times I was too strict on him, and would demand that he practice even outside the regular team practice," Roland said. "I was a little too demanding at times for extra practice with Trace individually. He didn't appreciate that and I certainly understand that."

Roland has since apologized to Trace for pushing him too hard and Trace accepted the apology. But don't misunderstand -- the two have had a good relationship throughout Trace's life, he says, and they talk to each other almost daily, his dad said.

ROLAND NOW lives in Las Vegas and distance has kept him from seeing his son play in Pullman -- Roland has never seen Trace play a game at WSU during his son's Cougar career, Trace said. Health problems have hindered that goal as well. Roland said he had both hips replaced a year and a half ago, and so it has been hard to travel to the Palouse.

"I appreciated his understanding that I wasn't able to make a lot of his games over the last couple years in Pullman because of my health," Roland Tam Sing said. "Trace has been very understanding about that."

Roland was able to see the Cougars play in California last year, and Trace said he was excited to show his dad the result of all that practice during his youth. And Roland said he tries to watch as many games this season as he can on Internet webcasts.

And best of all, Trace said his dad will be in the stands for Senior Weekend at WSU and also for his son's graduation this year.

THE COUGAR SHORTSTOP said his dad helped him learn how to be a team player. There were times as a kid on the baseball diamond when he was into himself more than he should have been, but Trace said his dad made sure to get rid of that quickly.

"Especially when I was younger, he would always get on me trying to make sure I was doing the right things," Tam Sing said. "It always seemed like he never got mad at me for doing the wrong thing, but whenever I did something right, I kind of took it for granted and was a showoff. He would always get on me because of that and I think that's helped me out a lot growing up."

Cougar second baseman Ian Sagdal has taken note of the team-oriented style of play that his partner in the middle infield brings to the game. Before every inning, Sagdal and Tam Sing come together near second base and shake hands. Sagdal said it's their way of saying, "Let's go into battle together."

They ask each other who is going to make the best play, and it serves as a pick-me-up if one of them had a bad at-bat in the previous inning, Sagdal said.

"Trace is a hard worker. You see him doing extra stuff in the weight room, you see him out early taking ground balls," Sagdal said. "He's the prime example of what you want to be like for baseball and outside of baseball. He's just a class-act, and I couldn't speak better things about him."

TAM SING has been drafted twice during his baseball career, once when he came out of high school by the Boston Red Sox, and again in 2013 by the Kansas City Royals. Despite the multiple draft selections, Tam Sing chose school both times. He said his parents are big advocates of going to school, and he knew his college degree was valuable.

"I couldn't really argue with them on that one because everything they did up until then, they chose the right decision for me, so I wanted to go to school and get my degree and be able to share memories that I never would have had if I hadn't gone to college."

Tam Sing is pursuing a degree in finance, and he said he might try to earn his real estate license at some point too. However, the dream to play professionally remains, even though he turned it down twice because he felt he needed to go to college to have a back-up plan to baseball.

"No doubts, no regrets, nothing like that," Tam Sing said. "It's just been an awesome experience, and I'm blessed to have been able to have the opportunity to go play twice professionally and hopefully I get a third time after this year."

Tam Sing is currently hitting .212, with on-base percentage of .302. He has 24 hits, six doubles, and 13 runs scored. He led the team last year with an on-base percentage of .384.

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