Special Ks: Lake City High seniors Kyle Manzardo, Kodie Kolden took different routes to baseball success

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Photo by JENNIFER WOODALL Lake City High seniors Kodie Kolden, left, and Kyle Manzardo.

Kyle Manzardo’s introduction to baseball came so early in his life that he has no way of remembering it.

“He was kinda born into it, really,” said his father, Paul Manzardo, the former North Idaho College baseball coach and current Lake City High baseball coach. “I was coaching at NIC at the time when he was born, in 2000. My wife (Windy) and I would laugh, because she would work in the afternoon, and she would drop him off at the field. He spent a lot of time in his car seat in the third-base dugout of NIC. He spent a lot of time crawling around in the dugout, eating dirt and recycled sunflower seeds that I had to pull out of his mouth.

“The college guys were real good to him. Those guys used to look out after him, like a big brother. He was on that field all the way up until they cut our program in ’02. His early parts of his life were in that third-base dugout at NIC.”

Kyle is now a senior at Lake City, a versatile infielder/pitcher who has signed to play at Washington State next year.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” Kyle says when told the story. “I think my dad had a large part in making me the player that I am today. Just hitting Whiffle balls in our back yard, and pitching BP to me pretty much whenever I wanted.”

Kodie Kolden, like Kyle Manzardo, has played baseball since he was old enough to. But Kolden, also a multisport athlete, thought football was going to be his sport. He was a running back and safety. That all changed in the eighth grade.

“As a really young kid, that’s what I really wanted to do,” Kolden said of football. “Then I had a concussion and ... ‘do I really want to keep doing this?’ So I stopped in eighth grade, and basketball and baseball were my thing.”

Kolden was playing in a football game on the turf field at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane.

“I got the ball and I started running,” he recalled. “I got to the outside and the linebacker grabbed my jersey and kinda just tossed me down. And I can remember my head slamming against the turf.”

Kolden is also now a senior at Lake City, also a versatile infielder/pitcher who has signed with WSU.

As sophomores, Manzardo and Kolden played roles on Lake City’s state 5A baseball title team in 2016. Two seasons later, they are senior leaders on a team good enough to contend for another state title again this year.

Kolden typically plays shortstop for Lake City, with Manzardo at third. When Kolden pitches, Manzardo moves to short.

Manzardo and Kolden have led this year’s Timberwolves team to a 9-0 start, as the top two hitters and sharing the team lead in runs batted in. Manzardo is batting .462 (12 for 26), with no homers and 13 RBIs.

“He’s a gap-to-gap hitter,” father said of son.

“You know it’s Kyle hitting when you hear the sound off his bat. It’s just different,” Kolden said.

Kolden is batting .519 (14 for 27), with one homer and 13 RBIs.

“He’s a phenomenal fielder,” Paul Manzardo said. “He gets good reads on the ball, good first step, good reaction time, above average arm. I see him playing all three spots at Washington State — third, short and second.”

“He’s super quick, makes a lot of plays,” Kyle Manzardo said of Kolden. “If I’m pitching and he’s playing short, and it’s hit to him, I’m pretty confident that he’ll make a play every time.”

Both are 2-0 on the mound, Kolden with 16 strikeouts in 15 innings.

“Kyle and I lead more by example,” Kolden said.

THE PLUS side to Paul Manzardo losing his job as NIC baseball coach when the program was dropped was, he had time to coach Kyle in T-ball, in the Coeur d’Alene Little League program.

In those days, he made the kids hit from both sides of the tee, just to see how they reacted. Kyle took more of a liking to hitting left-handed, so that’s where he stayed.

“When I was coaching college, my real good left-handed hitters were also right-handed throwers,” said Paul Manzardo, who played at Powers Catholic High in Flint, Mich., and then at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich. “The more I looked at it, that dominant hand that you hit with, for a lefty, is your right hand. That’s your bottom hand; that’s your follow-through hand. A lot of your power and your whip through the zone comes from that right side. So it made a lot of sense to keep him on that side.”

Kyle Manzardo throws right-handed — but that’s about all he does right-handed.

“In basketball he shoots left-handed, he writes left-handed and eats left-handed,” Paul said. “I might have screwed him up early on by making him throw right-handed.”

“I think I used to shoot right-handed, but I would throw it more than I would shoot it,” Kyle said.

Kyle played shortstop all the way through Little League. Kolden grew up in Post Falls, and they first became teammates with the Spokane Expos 14-and-under club team, with Manzardo playing third, Kolden short.

“The year we won the state tournament, Kyle played every position but center fielder and catcher,” Paul said. “And he’s very versatile.’

WSU is looking at Kyle as a first baseman and left fielder; first basemen are typically power hitters. Kyle will also play some first for Lake City this year.

“I think eventually he’ll develop into (a power hitter),” Paul said.

Paul coached Kyle through Little League; Paul was the manager when Kyle played on the Coeur d’Alene Little League all-star team in 2013 that reached the semifinals at the Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, Calif.

When his baseball playing days are over, Kyle Manzardo said he might consider a career in the business world, or perhaps go into coaching and teaching.

If so, no word yet on whether he might someday be running practice on the baseball field, with a youngster perched in a car seat in the dugout.

Just like dad.

“We’re always competitive with everything we do at home, just like here in baseball,” Kyle said. “If anything, he (Paul) has made me a better competitor.”

KOLDEN PLAYED on the 2012 Post Falls Little League all-star team that reached the championship game of the Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, before coming up one win short of advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

As a high school freshman, he opted to enroll at Lake City, in part because of the school’s block scheduling.

Early in his freshman season, Kolden was called up to the varsity, and has been with the big club ever since.

As a sophomore, Kolden was handed the ball to start on the mound in the state championship game. He responded with Lake City’s third complete game in three days, a 4-1 victory over Meridian, and helped the Timberwolves win their first state title since 2007.

“He’s your ultimate competitor,” said Paul Manzardo, in his first season as head coach that season. “You want him in crunch time. He knows how to compete. He’s a workhorse. We knew he would compete, and pitch to contact. And we had our best defensive alignment behind him that game. He always rose to the occasion in big situations.”

Kolden saw it a little differently.

“The night before that game I was laying in bed, and I just couldn’t sleep — because I hadn’t pitched really well that whole year,” Kolden said. “Well, I’m just going to try to go out there and throw strikes and get outs.”

Perhaps an even more impressive feat took place this winter.

Kolden, the starting point guard for the Lake City basketball team, missed the first part of the season following surgery in October to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

The reason — “repeated dislocations,” Kolden said.

“The worst one happened in the summer, playing at Whitworth,” he recalled. “I slid head-first into third base and it popped out, and I was like, ‘I need to go get this checked,’ because it had happened about 10-15 times.”

Some rehab and physical therapy later, Kolden returned the basketball court in January, and made his season debut in Lake City’s win over Lewiston to open 5A Inland Empire League play.

“I rushed it a little too much to get back to basketball, but I was lucky enough to not reinjure it,” Kolden said. “Now it feels back to normal.”

Perhaps that’s why Kolden hopes to major in kinesiology at WSU, then go on to grad school and get into physical therapy.

Meanwhile, with Kolden at the point and Manzardo as a defensive-minded wing, Lake City came within one game of qualifying for the state basketball tournament.

With baseball as his future, why risk injury playing another sport?

“I just remember being a freshman and saying, ‘I can’t wait ’til I’m a senior, we have such a good group and we’re going to be so much better,’” Kolden said. “It was like, I just had to get back and play those last games of my basketball career. It was just something I had to do for myself.”

“That speaks to his character,” Paul Manzardo said. “For him to do what he did, I tip my hat.”

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