Harvey Cochran lived baseball, influenced the game statewide

030523 - ACWORTH, GA -- (north Cobb) - In this Friday May 23, 2003 photo we see longtime North Cobb High School baseball coach Harvey Cochran (cq) in a portrait . Coach Cochran is our Cobb AJC Sports Baseball Coach of the Year. (ANDY SHARP/AJC staff)

Credit: AJC staff

Credit: AJC staff

030523 - ACWORTH, GA -- (north Cobb) - In this Friday May 23, 2003 photo we see longtime North Cobb High School baseball coach Harvey Cochran (cq) in a portrait . Coach Cochran is our Cobb AJC Sports Baseball Coach of the Year. (ANDY SHARP/AJC staff)
High School baseball coach Harvey Cochran is shown in this 2003 photo looking out onto the field named after him. Cochran coached at North Cobb High School and other schools for decades. (ANDY SHARP/AJC staff)

Credit: AJC staff

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Credit: AJC staff

Longtime high school baseball coach Harvey Cochran exhibited a no-nonsense exterior. He expected the very best from his players and was vocal when he felt they didn’t deliver.

Mind you, his passion could get him thrown out of a game after chest-bumping an umpire.

But former players plus coaches and family members say what lay beneath was a generous and loving nature, which turned into tough love when needed. He was devoted to his family. He stood by his school and the students in the English classes he taught. But at a basic level, they said, Cochran lived and breathed baseball.

His influence extended far beyond hitting and fielding drills during 44 years in coaching and teaching, the bulk of it at North Cobb. He pushed for upgrades to baseball facilities and helped expand the reach of a statewide baseball booster organization, making it one of the best. He ran baseball camps to develop young players, organized scouting combines and even traveled internationally with some teams.

He helped discipline and build thousands of young men on the field, including his son Harvest William “Kip” Cochran III.

“There was one time when my hitting skills eroded over the summer (he’d been away) and my hitting was a little off. He gave me a bunt sign and I ignored it because I was frustrated. And, I incurred his bark later.”

A talking-to also followed if a player hit a pop fly and then didn’t run it out at first base.

Cochran had an instinctive, gut-level approach to the game and life, teaching players the fundamentals and techniques, but also how to become responsible young men. More than a few of those said he inspired them to become coaches.

Harvest William “Harvey” Cochran, Jr., 73, died Aug. 19 from recurring heart and kidney problems. He’s survived by his wife Linda, son Kip, his sister Donna Sue and grandchildren Alec and Katie.

Kip Cochran said his dad fell in love with baseball early-and that that love had a very practical side.

“Baseball for him was a way up and a way out. It gave him a college degree and the opportunity to do teaching and coaching.”

The Mableton native played three sports in high school then went on to Mercer University on a scholarship, where he matured into a four-year starting pitcher. A rotator cuff injury in his final season squelched professional dreams, redirecting him from the pitcher’s mound to the dugout.

Cochran came to North Cobb High in 1970, becoming a fixture both as head baseball coach and a teacher of English literature. He retired in 2012 following coaching stints at two other metro Atlanta schools.

Retired North Cobb Principal Lynda Martin built a close friendship with the coach and his wife.

“He was very good in the classroom,” she said and a longtime friend backed that up, saying Cochran’s knowledge of Shakespearian plays was uncanny. And he’d pull aside floundering students to give them individual help.

That penchant for mentoring and attention was also displayed on the ball field.

Keith Hansen, who both played and coached under Cochran at North Cobb, said he was a master strategist.

“It was sort of like Harvey was playing chess when everybody else was playing checkers” he said.

He recalls a game where the third baseman played deep and the pitcher was favoring the opposite side of the mound toward first-base. Cochran exploited that by instructing his players to bunt no less than seven times in a row. Five of them became hits and they won the game.

Associates praised his substantial statewide impact. One former player said when Cochran arrived at North Cobb, some high school fields in the state were no better than “cow pastures with rocks.” The fledgling coach pushed for upgrades at his home field, influencing other programs to follow suit.

Cochran also headed up the Georgia Dugout Club, expanding its influence beyond the metro area. He helped it grow into one of the largest booster groups in the country. He also played an instrumental role in developing club programs such as scouting combines and an All-Star game. For those efforts he was inducted into the Dugout Club and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association halls of fame.

Fellow coaches and former players said Cochran stayed in touch with a host of former students and at times would help them through tight spots, financially and otherwise. If one of his teams was at an out-of-town tournament and a player was short of money for a meal, Cochran would dig into his own pocket.

Longtime Osborne High School coach Donnie English said he and Cochran maintained a spirited rivalry, but never lost their sense of fun. Many years, he said, his team and North Cobb would square off in the finals of the regional tournament.

“Harvey had a big heart. Yes, he put on a face occasionally. (But) if there was an argument we got over it fast and when the ball game was over we were buddies again”

“He was a great ambassador for baseball.”