Once a star on the field, Cole Gambill now giving back to the game he loves

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OREM — There was a familiar face among those working on their game at The Strike Zone in Vineyard, except he was the one dishing it out rather than raking it.

Instead of telling his teammates what the opposing pitchers were trying to do, he was acting like he was on the mound, trying to shut the door in their face.

But for former BYU baseball outfielder Cole Gambill, he said it's all second nature to him. The Lone Peak graduate, who hung up his cleats after his senior season, is now an assistant coach at Salt Lake Community College, where he started his playing career after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salta, Argentina.

After prepping at Lone Peak, Gambill was named to the all-conference first team as a freshman at SLCC under head coach DG Nelson, before becoming one of the best power hitters for the Bruins in his second year with a .311 hitting average.

"I really enjoyed coaching Cole because he would always be asking me questions about what the pitchers were doing and why I would make certain decisions," Nelson said. "Now he's getting to do that for the guys on the team."

It embodies what Nelson has done in his tenure with the Bruins; he constantly wants his players to be asking questions about the "why" of things on the field, which he said has allowed them to have both sustained individual and team success.

That's where Gambill's time at The Strike Zone comes in. Since he ended his playing career in May 2023, Gambill has started holding private lessons for players all the way up to high school, including for his younger brother-in-law, Lone Peak outfielder Brandon Billings.

And just like how Nelson's approach to coaching is not a one-size-fits-all deal, Gambill's approach to lessons is the same. On any given night, he can be found working with a high school player in one session, and a 10-year-old the very next.

It's also hard to believe, but the lessons almost didn't happen. Gambill said he didn't consider doing them on the side because of his busy schedule with school and his marriage, but after he started doing lessons with some of the players he already knew — and with some help from the owner at The Strike Zone — he soon found it was something he loved to do.

"When you're trying to be a mentor, you have to look at players from an individual standpoint, but you also have to adjust to get your messages across," Gambill said. "The idea you can't learn as a coach is not true."

Maybe that would explain why Gambill said he never felt he wasn't both a teacher and a student of the game of baseball. He said while he was more of a listener as a freshman, it gave him confidence to be more vocal as an older player later on — and made his transition to coaching easier.

"When players come in, there's a learning curve, but if you make it about them, they will have success," Nelson said. "One of the greatest things about coaching is watching young men find that success."

It's what Nelson said he looks for in recruits; besides the talent, he always looks for "high-character kids" that are disciplined and can have their lives in order off the field.

And he added having one of his former players back as a coach, whom Nelson said "carries himself responsibly, without an ego", has been a tremendous help for his Bruins this season — even if he didn't expect it to come full circle.

"If you're passionate about what you're working on, it means you're willing to push through it," Gambill said. "I loved the coaches at Salt Lake, and the idea to come back and coach has turned into a better opportunity than I thought."

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