Joe Walsh, the Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 Head Coach for Harvard Baseball, died suddenly at his Chester, N.H., home early this morning, the Department of Harvard Athletics announced today.

Walsh served proudly in his self-professed “dream job” as Harvard’s baseball coach for the past 17 seasons, winning five Ivy League championships, according to Harvard Athletics.

“This is a tragic day for everyone associated with Harvard athletics, Massachusetts baseball, and the larger baseball community,” said Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise. “Joe’s passion for the game redefined success in the Ivy League and he positively impacted the lives of so many people. To say that he will be missed would be an understatement.”

Walsh is survived by his wife, Sandra, and their four daughters, Tory, Holly, Katie, and Kasey.

More information with funeral details will be forthcoming.

A 1971 graduate of Catholic Memorial High School in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood, Walsh was a true son of “Southie.” He stayed local for his college baseball, playing at Suffolk University before graduating in 1976.

Walsh’s first head coaching job came at his alma mater, taking the reins in the 1980-81 season. He remained at Suffolk for 15 years and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in May 2009.

In 1996, Walsh became Harvard’s first full-time, and first endowed, baseball coach. Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, M.B.A. ’71, a former Harvard baseball and football letterwinner who is a long-time supporter of the College, established a $2.5 million endowment fund that supports the head baseball coach in much the same way that an endowed chair supports a professor.

In 32 years as a college coach, Walsh posted a 569-564-3 record. He led Harvard to a school-record season in 1998 by going 36-12 with a final ranking of 24th nationally after leading the Crimson to victories over Tulane and Nicholls State at the NCAA South II Regional at LSU.

That success followed his 1997 campaign when he took Harvard to a 34-16 overall record. After claiming its first Ivy title since 1985 with a League-best 18-2 Ivy mark, the Crimson made an impressive showing in the NCAA Midwest Regional at Oklahoma State where Walsh’s sixth-seeded club handed top-seeded (and fourth-ranked) UCLA an opening-round loss and then eliminated Stetson in the second round.
Walsh was named the 1997 and 1998 Northeast Region Division I Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

His involvement in the renowned Cape Cod League dates back to 1988, when he was the head coach of the Brewster Whitecaps. He served stints with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox under legendary head coach Don Reed and, from 1991 to 1998, served as the pitching coach for the Wareham Gatemen.

In addition to coaching on Cape Cod, Walsh was a regular at Fenway Park throwing batting practice. He also ran baseball camps and clinics throughout New England as the Play To Win Baseball Camp.

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