Westman, Aden To Be Enshrined in Centralia College Sports Hall of Fame
BALLIN’: Westman Played Basketball in 2002-04, Aden Played Baseball in 1979-81, Basketball in ‘81
By Matt Baide
The Centralia College Sports Hall of Fame will enshrine their 114th and 115th members on Saturday when Nikki Westman and Barry Aden are inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will take place during halftime of the women’s basketball game against Pierce with game time scheduled for 5 p.m.
Westman, known back in her playing days as Nikki Johnson, played basketball from 2002-04. Aden played baseball in 1979-81 and played on the basketball team in 1981.
Nikki Westman was a three-sport athlete in Tenino, although her main sport was basketball. She wanted to stay close to home and play basketball which was when Centralia College came calling.
“I knew I wanted to go on and play basketball but didn’t want to leave the family or go too far at the time I didn’t think,” Westman said. “So (Gary) Viggers was the coach, we had a good rapport and I liked him and just decided to stay close to home and go to CC and hopefully transfer on to a four year.”
While playing for the Blazers, she met a lot of great people and built plenty of relationships she still has today.
“I don’t remember a whole lot. I do have good memories of CC and I have a lot of good friends, one of my best friends I met there, Katie Swan,” Westman said. “I met a lot of great people. I had a good experience. We did fairly well, probably just the relationships I made were some of my best memories.”
On the basketball court, Westman had a solid freshman season, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
In her sophomore season, Westman suffered a stress fracture in her hip during her sophomore campaign.
Even with the injury, Westman was still able to show the NWAC what she was capable of. The Blazers went 24-7 and 12-4 in the West Division, finishing in second place behind Lower Columbia but Westman was named the West Division MVP, scoring 16.9 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field.
Centralia had a solid run in the NWAC Tournament and defeated Skagit Valley 63-44 to take fourth place. Westman was named to the second team of the NWAC Tournament All-Stars.
“I think it was the best the school had done ever, or at least in a long time. It was the sophomore’s last game, so super exciting and emotional all at once,” Westman said. “The coaching staff was great, and overall it was just a great season and great team, memories I’ll have forever.”
Her performance during her sophomore campaign caught the eyes of some four year schools, with Westman ultimately deciding to attend Pacific Lutheran University.
The decision turned out to be a great one, as she flourished and was named the MVP of the Northwest Conference her junior year and led the Lutes to a 24-4 record and berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Westman gives a lot of credit to Centralia for helping launch her career and life in basketball.
“I think it gave me a lot of confidence. I met a lot of great people that I still to this day keep in contact with,” Westman said. “It gave me a lot of confidence and helped boost me to that next level of playing at PLU and then also being successful throughout the rest of my life. I give CC a lot of credit for my accomplishments and successes since then.”
Even after her collegiate basketball days were over, Westman still loves the sport of basketball and can still hoop it.
“It’s probably shaped my entire life really. I’ve just always played basketball, my sister played basketball. We’re a big sports family, it’s still a huge part of my life,” Westman said. “After going to CC, then PLU, me and my sister have always played in Hoopfest and now my sister is the coach at Tumwater High School. She started 90ten so I’ve always helped her there, kind of just volunteered and it’s a youth program and helped coach when I can. Basketball has just been a huge part of my life and probably always will be.”
Westman and her sister also help put on the Capital City 3-on-3 Tournament, a tournament played on the streets of the Capitol grounds during Lake Fair each year. Westman and her family took third in Spokane Hoopfest the last time they played.
She currently works as a real estate agent for Van Dorm Realty. She has been married for five years and has two young daughters.
Westman hasn’t been back to Centralia since she played there but is excited about coming back and being enshrined into the Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“Although, my CC days sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, I will always cherish the memories that I made there and the relationships that were build,” Westman said. “I am very thankful for my time there and feel honored that they are recognizing me and inducting me into the hall of fame.”
Aden’s journey in baseball started at Liberty High School in Renton. He was recruited by Ken Wilson to come play for Centralia and was enrolled to play baseball by September of 1979.
It was his first time living away from home and he remembers his local hangout spots during his time.
“I think I had one of everything on Burgerville’s menu freshman year. There used to be this pancake place on the other side of town called the NorWester, we used to go in there and have pancakes,” Aden said. “35 cents a piece for pancakes. We lived at that place as far as food was concerned in Centralia.”
On the diamond, Aden was a stud and his team had quite a few top baseball prospects. In 1980, Aden was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth round, 188th overall.
“I’d been talked to by the scouts when I was in high school and I knew they were following me. To get picked, I guess I wasn’t surprised back in those days. You knew it was coming,” Aden said. “I actually got notified by a telegram that I’d been drafted in the eighth round by the Cardinals. We had, I want to say five other guys on my team that year that got drafted. The rule of thumb around Centralia was we were a loaded, strong baseball program and it was a great honor to be drafted.”
While going to school as a freshman and working on campus picking up cigarette butts in various containers outside of campus buildings, Aden would head to the gym and started shooting around and rebounding for the Blazer basketball team. He caught the eye of coach Bob Reimer.
“I started shooting around with the college team which Bob Peters was a freshman on and I’d rebound for the guys and I’d play some defense on those guys and Reimer would kind of integrate me into the basketball practice,” Aden said. “Well, we decided I’d be better off being a basketball manager. I was more useful as a practice dummy than I was as an ashtray cleaner and so Bob Reimer got somebody else and Ken Wilson agreed to get somebody else to do my job. I turned in my spatula and I became the manager for the basketball team as a freshman.”
In his sophomore year, Aden joined the team and although he was the 12th man on a 12-man team, he enjoyed his time on the court for the Blazers.
In his sophomore season on the baseball field, Aden continued to perform well and was drafted again, this time in the second round, 33rd overall, again by the Cardinals.
Although he wanted to sign his contract after his freshman year, he still didn’t sign a contract following his sophomore year.
“I wanted to sign after my freshman year and I especially wanted to sign after my sophomore pick, but my dad had other things in mind,” Aden said. “I was going to go to college for four years and I was going to be a chiropractor. Baseball was something we did as an activity but not as a profession.”
Aden moved on and attended Eastern Washington University after Centralia, earning an education degree in biology and he became a teacher at his former high school at age 23 and he became the head baseball coach at Liberty in 1985.
While always involved in baseball, he never got his professional opportunity until the Major League Baseball players strike occurred in 1994. In the spring of 1995, the MLB approved the use of replacement players, and Aden was called up to the big leagues and attended spring training for the Seattle Mariners.
“I took leave from my teaching job and went down to Arizona and I made the replacement team all the way up until the strike ended. I was a right handed pitcher wearing a Mariner uniform playing for Lou Piniella,” Aden said. “Then all of that came crashing down and the strike ended and the real big leaguers were called back into camp and we all went back to our normal lives.”
Aden appeared in 13 of 27 spring training games as a relief pitcher. While it wasn’t a long time playing for Piniella, he still learned from him and incorporates those lessons into his own coaching style.
“What people don’t know about him is that he’s a players manager. He really knew everything about each of us and he genuinely cared and I think that’s been a big part of my coaching career is how he coached me,” Aden said. “How he had 25 different relationships with the 25 players, not just one personality for the whole team. He really made a point of knowing about each guy and caring and that’s been my rule of thumb for my 30 years of managing college age players.”
Aden’s college coaching career began in 1990, coaching for four different teams, including the the Seattle Studs, Tacoma Timbers, Seattle Cruisers, and then back to the Seattle-Cheney Studs, which he’s been coaching since 2001.
Aden has been wrapped up in baseball and knows that will be his legacy.
“I’ve had four pretty good careers but if anyone was to say my name, I would be known as a baseball player/coach,” Aden said. “What I’m happy about is baseball will be what I’m remembered as versus what I did during the work day and I’m really happy with that.”
He has been back to Centralia a few times since his playing days and even took his son on a recruiting trip there last year. Aden attributes a lot of that to his time wearing a Blazer uniform.
“Those two years at Centralia, getting recognized and drafted in the eighth round and the second round elevated my credibility in the game to a level that really got me on the rollercoaster of high level of success and a high level of people viewing me as a baseball guy,” Aden said. “It was huge. You go from just playing at a little small high school and all of the sudden, Major League teams want you and they’re willing to use really low draft picks to possibly sign you. It was a huge contribution to my reputation as a credible baseball player and baseball guy.”
When he is enshrined on Saturday, he will be thinking about all the teammates and coaches that influenced him along the way.
“It’s just a super honor for my school to recognize me for what I accomplished after I left there and I really want to give Centralia College the credit for elevating my game and making me all of the sudden a guy who commanded respect on the baseball field and had a lot of people thinking highly of me and was established in my time there,” Aden said. “I appreciate my memories.”